Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Truth + Annie Dillard

As I revised that piece last week, I tried to decide whether to distort the truth on a (relatively) insignificant detail: what tape is playing in my car at one point. For the sake of the piece, it works best if it's something like Al Green's Let's Stay Togther. In truth, though, it was probably something like Love and Rockets' Earth, Sun, Moon, or the first album by the Stone Roses.

Ostensibly, it shouldn't matter.

But the piece is about telling the truth, about trying to find the confidence to live my own stories, to live my own ideas, and not those of others.

And I know that lies, distortions, fictions can be as effective (even more effective sometimes) as the "truth" in revealing what's true about a particular story, a particular moment. It is, after all, how metaphors work. And it's ground that Tim O'Brien covers repeatedly in The Things They Carried. But, somehow, it felt awkward to lie in this particular piece.

In any case, it reminded me of Annie Dillard's "Transfiguration" and her insistence that, while she actually was reading a biography of Rimbaud when a moth flew into her candle and stuck there, she certainly would not have hesitated to invent that detail if it didn't happen to be true.

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