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November 22, 2005

22 de novembro

Which is truer:  fact or fiction?  Logic would say fact, but
in the case of stories and books, I believe one has to think more
deeply about this question before responding. 

The News Hour with Jim Lehrer aired a brief segment tonight on the
decline of fiction in magazines, noting, also, that many authors feel
they have to cross over into the non-fiction realm at least
occasionally in order not to feel as if they are always living in a
world of their own creation.  But is non-fiction really any more
“true” than fiction? 

I would argue that it is not.  Here is why:  when I read
really good fiction, I feel, perceive, and ponder the world from
different perspectives.  In so doing, I learn how other people
(and sometimes other things) experience the same world that I live in
yet is so different for them than it is for me.  I don’t just
learn about people, places, cultures, and events outside of my own limited reality–I experience them, albeit vicariously.

In many ways I think such fiction expresses more truths about humanity
than does non-fiction.  The facts, figures, and anecdotal evidence
provided in many non-fiction books leave me more informed about what
I’ve read, but rarely with a true understanding for what that really means
for the people affected by what I was reading about.  Furthermore,
numbers and statistics can be used to paint very false pictures,
especially when certain key data are conveniently omitted. 

In general, fiction books tend to pull me into the story being told in
such a way that I never want to put the book down.  The stories
and characters become a part of my memory in the same way that scenes
from a really good movie do, meaning I’m likely to take much more away
from fiction than from a dry non-fiction piece.  Non-fiction, when
written well, has the potential to be just as enticing and engaging
(for example, the book We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families,
by Philip Gourevitch, which recounts the story of the Rwandan genocide
with a very personal, touching style)–but more often than not, this
isn’t the case.

So which is truer:  fact or fiction?  The truth is, it
depends.  Both can be misconstrued, and both can be
enlightening.  Only the discerning, critical eye will be able to

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