I appreciate this article for its overview of recent books that have, through their writers' variously complex deceits, accomplished success that was later re-estimated in light of relevant untruths. What I find most interesting about these examples is not the ways they have challenged the integrity of writing classifications that define truth and fiction but the way most of Lehmann's examples reveal the propensity among educated Americans to readily consume what should stand out as elaborately described stereotypes. The authors' ploys for publishing these works are not nearly as disconcerting as the willingness many readers show for accepting these artful renderings of violent and oppressive life experiences, without suspicion that would send one searching for the author's airbrush.
While it may less of a burden to American identity to imagine that an individual can live amid continual violence and trauma and develop into a wonderfully harmonious balance of self-possession, confidence and heroic determination--a lovely, well-balanced victim/hero--that is rarely the real outcome of such living conditions. It should take little more than modest criticality to enable the willingness to reject billboard versions of life experiences that pop up undercover as non-fiction. Even when the truer versions are uglier, they do not lack the longed-for themes of heroism and victimization, they just pack more humanity between the lines.
B. Eliza Wiest
Mar 27 2008 - 1:01am