by Debbie Vance
Pam Houston, author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, exposes the relationship between truth and invention in all our writings in her craft essay “Corn Maze.” She says that, generally, 82% of the content in both her fiction and nonfiction actually happened (in some respect) and that oftentimes the truest stories are in fact the invented ones. It is that “white space of language’s limitation”–between us and the experienced event, however true it may or may not be–that real truth lies.
Tags: Craft Talk, Pam Houston, Quotes, Truth in Fiction
When it was decided (When was that again, and by whom?) that we were all supposed to choose between fiction and nonfiction, what was not taken into account was that for some of us truth can never be an absolute, that there can (at best) be only less true and more true and sometimes those two collapse inside each other like a Turducken. Given the failure of memory. Given the failure of language to mean. Given metaphor. Given metonymy. Given the ever-shifting junction of code and context. Given the twenty-five people who saw the same car accident. Given our denial. Given our longings.
Speaking only for myself, now, I cannot see any way that my subsequent well-being depends on whether or not, or how much, you believe what I am telling you—that is to say—on the difference (if there is any) between 82 and 100 percent true. My well-being (when and if it exists) resides in the gaps language leaves between myself and the corn maze, myself and the Las Vegas junkies, myself and the elk chest-deep in snow. It is there, in that white space of language’s limitation that I am allowed to touch everything, and it is in those moments of touching everything, that I am some version of free.