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Pickle Me This

August 8, 2008

No difference between stories and real life

“I am a writer and I have been accused of merely writing autobiography in my stories, as if that were somehow easier to do than making everything up. Before I went to meet Lawrence, agitated as I was, it crossed my mind that I would find some way of writing about seeing him after so many years– the things we say to each other, what has become of us– some peripheral telling of lies maybe, or an extension of the fact that will take the encounter from the banal to the cosmic, that will find a universal chord, because that is what good writers do, the ones who know there is no difference among autobiography, biography, fiction or non-fiction, between stories and real life.” –Sharon Butala, “Postmodernism”

4 thoughts on “No difference between stories and real life”

  1. Steven W. Beattie says:

    “… the ones who know that there is no difference among autobiography, biography, fiction or non-fiction, between stories and real life.”

    I’m not even sure this is true when it comes to writing. David Cronenberg once pointed out that the only two categories of people who can’t distinguish between fiction and non-fiction are censors and psychopaths.

  2. Kerry says:

    See, I’d worry about anyone who saw it so straightforwardly. Doesn’t story leak over into your life? At least it does into mine, but then I’m prone to dramatics. But that’s just the point, that we spin our own narratives as we go about our lives and read the world similarly to how we’d view a text. (Green traffic lights mean we’re lucky, or a missed bus means we were never meant to arrive). At the same time the actual world does provide the raw material for the stories I write, naturally, however much I shape it into something unrecognizable. Successful biography is narrative. There is nothing less true than autobiography in the entire world. That Butala’s excerpt is from fiction is something also. I don’t know, I find the whole idea fascinating and somehow reassuring too. And isn’t David Cronenberg crazy?

  3. Steven W. Beattie says:

    Point taken. Didn’t David Sedaris say something to the effect that if people are interested in truth, the memoir is the last place they should look?

    Also, I fear I misquoted Cronenberg. His distinction wasn’t between fiction and non-fiction, but between fiction and reality, which is different. So, never mind.

  4. Rebecca Rosenblum says:

    I’m wondering if the difference is not in the facts but in intent–what you are supposed to do with fiction is pretty much what you are supposed to do with biography, creative non-fiction, travelogue: live it, experience it, feel it as Butala’s “cosmic” truth–you aren’t supposed to go and check the supposed participants for their alleged scars. It’s *true*, so it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not.

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