…is unfortunately the last class I’ll ever take. It’s called Truth or Fiction, and it’s both a creative writing workshop and philosophical rumination on the lines between telling the truth and telling stories within factual writing. Which we call nonfiction, but which my professor prefers to call by the former title to give it positive content.
Last week we talked about truth as fact vs truth as a resonant emotion or atmosphere. For a reference point, we’d all read The Lifespan of a Fact: John D’Agastini, author, vs. Jim Finigal, factchecker. It’s basically a record of a series of communications between a stubborn essayist and his equally obstinate factchecker, who called the author out on every. single. inaccuracy in his “artwork” before it was to be published as nonfiction in The Believer literary magazine. The book invites readers to take sides between the men, and sides between the importance of representing events accurately and painting the heart of an emotional experience.
Some of the questions that came up in our discussion were: “Who are authors responsible to? Their subjects? Their muse? Their publishers? Their audience?” “What is truer, a fact or an impression?” and “Does the subject matter influence the ethics of its writing?”
And now, this week, we’re workshopping the first half of a rough draft I wrote on the experience of being introduced to the world of BDSM in New York. Should be interesting to see what kinds of questions my classmates have about the truth or fiction of that…