blinded by fiction -

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
~Aldous Huxley

Perhaps Mike Daisey should have considered this before he recorded his story for “This American Life”.

Do you know of this one? A quick re-hash:

“This American Life” with Ira Glass, did a show back in January regarding a Foxconn factory, a China-based manufacturer of Apple products. Mike Daisey interviewed a retired Chinese worker, who was said to have injured his hand while manufacturing the Apple iPad. The story theatrically cuts in to the worker handling an iPad for the first time with said, damaged hand.

What has come to be revealed is that not all of the story is fact. This revelation has turned into a media brouhaha. “This American Life” recently did an hour-long retraction, which I can only assume is not so much for the public, but to avoid possible litigation. There is only one bite out of the apple, there shall be no others.

The story was of great fascination since I just blogged about truth in reporting after reading Brevity WP blog’s report on John D’Agata. Now, it isn’t just Brevity blogging about fact and creative non-fiction; but The New Yorker’s latest blurb finds D’Agata’s ‘fact fiddling’** a nice mash-up with Daisey’s fabrications. Bully for D’Agata’s book sales if the adage ‘bad press is better than no press’ is true.

Fact or Fiction. Focused or Blurred. Does it matter?

The standard response has been, “if you wish to be creative with the facts, then just make if fiction”. I must say I agree; but, many do not see this quite so black and white…many are okay with adding a little color for the sake of a more artistic story. Even in fiction, there can be a need for clarification:

Author’s Note

This is not so much an author’s note as an author’s reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago. This book is a work of fiction. I made it up.

- John Green, The Fault In Our Stars

John Green goes on to say that the reader need not question every line looking for truth. I found this most interesting since the polar opposite is demanded for creative non-fiction…or is it? Whose standards have become more lax; the writer or the reader?

Dear reader, assuming you are also a blogger, do you colour outside the lines of truth? Do you recant personal stories and state that The Who were playing on Spotify, when really it was The Guess Who. Who does it harm if you no longer remember…

Well, that depends. Who are you to your reader? Do you dance around the truth to remain a mystery? Perhaps you are a humor blogger; ergo, it is expected that your grocery store debacle didn’t really involve smashed eggs; an ice cream tub explosion; AND a Champaign cork hitting the clerk two aisles over.

I’d say that events on this blog are reported as I see them. Perhaps, if I went back, I’d have to disclaimer that it wasn’t Billie Holiday, but Sarah Vaughn who was singing at the time I wrote a certain poem. It may seem minute, but, in a small way, I think it can burn something that we try to build: our reader’s trust.

Years ago I listened to “This American Life” podcast while on long runs. Eventually I stopped because I oft felt the stories were so fantastical that it couldn’t all be truth. It left me feeling duped.

Our species doesn’t like to be lied, too. It is an inadvertent attack on our intelligence. Perhaps that is why cheating is so damaging. The behavior is one thing; but it is the boldface lie that wedges in our back and refuses to budge; our ego keeps holding on it in order to prevent future attacks.

There was an attack against Vogue recently regarding the airbrushed Adele. I thought of it today when I saw our latest magazine shipment. Mariah Carey is now Vogue’s cover feature. Did you know she has tricked Father-time and reverted back to being twenty again? Yes, most know that Photoshop has been used to enhance the truth, so again, what does it harm? It is just a shadow added; a tweaking of color, here or there; it means nothing. Perhaps, or perhaps, let’s ask the eight year old girl who already uses the word diet and wishes to look like Hannah or Britney.

Things are not always as they seem, are they…

…sometimes, we get blinded by fiction.

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  1. Angela, how funny that you posted about this today. MTM and I are Mike Daisey fans, and are set to see him in two monologues in May. We’re still waiting to hear whether the one in question will be done as planned, or whether he will sub something else. He’s a gifted, engrossing storyteller.

    But, that’s the key here. He tells stories. With the popularity of memoir, this problem has become a mushroom cloud over storytelling. Few memoirs are what actually happened anymore, and agents I’ve heard speak admit this.

    I write fiction because I can take scenes from life and mash them together, blur them, and shake them up until they become an engrossing story. I don’t have to worry about whether something really happened, and I like that.

    On my blog, when I write stories from life, they are what happened. If I make things up, even if it is a story drawn from life, I call it fiction, and I post a note to tell the reader it’s fiction. I write about so many people in my life on my blog that one of them would have surely called me out by now if I were a liar.

    • I do hope you blog about the performance.

      I’m generally not a rule follower, but I’ve a bit of an issue with some of the going-ons with creative non-fiction right now. I do believe the reader is owed a disclaimer (as you so kindly offer) to inform if circumstances have been changed.

  2. Hi AMF loved this post. I feel when ever a writer adds little story around a fact it becomes fiction.the base may be true but rest is cooked up and its better to make sure readers know whether they are reading a real life incident or a work of fiction based on true or made up events..infact i have also found that a lot of people find these informations interesting too.
    these facts sometimes also change the way we look at the story and the characters.

  3. One of the problems in differentiating between fact and fiction is the misuse of language and imagery. The word “love” is bandied around as much in relation to bagels as it is to a new born child. There is little straight forward imagery as the hunger for new and interesting precludes the use of the simply good.


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