It’s All Fiction

“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever.” This appears to be a left-handed way of saying, “It’s all fiction.”

Don DeLillo continues with a more specific and even more demanding observation: “An eight-hundred-page biography is nothing more than dead conjecture…”

Dead conjecture?

imgres.jpgWhen I studied rhetoric at the university we had several exercises designed to develop various skills in writing. One I remember well was to write detailed instructions so that anyone could read them and flawlessly perform the task described. My essay was called “Scratching the Grasshopper” and it dealt with the very Southern California effort of paddling a surfboard out beyond the shore break.

The essay was an example of non-fiction writing but the thought and effort I put into it convinced me that it was just as fictional as any short story by Edgar Allen Poe. I had selected between many different techniques and situations to create a somewhat Platonic shadow picture of paddling a surfboard. Picking and choosing what I write is work for the imagination and the brain. It is the method we associate with fiction writing.

Too many people confuse “true life” with non-fiction. Several years back my contention that “It’s All Fiction” was challenged by the argument that if I denied the efficacy of non-fiction then that was just like denying that the holocaust ever occurred. The idea being that if a book about the holocaust was fiction then the holocaust must also be fiction. Besides being a silly argument, it totally misses the point.

Go back and read DeLillo: “The true life is not reducible to words ….” A book about the holocaust is an imaginative construct made by man, or in short, fiction; the holocaust is true life.

images-2.jpgBy the way, I received an “F” on that essay for the single reason that I had failed to clearly indicate the direction at which the paddling should occur. I guess I just assumed the reader would be pointing the surfboard out into the ocean, away from the shore (after all, how ludicrous would it be to paddle across the sand to catch a speed-bump outside the Jack-In-The-Box) … Never assume!

[Quotations from Point Omega by Don DeLillo]

One thought on “It’s All Fiction

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing the instruction exercise. I´m coordinating a creative writting workshop and we used it. I changed a little to “Instructions to be late”.

    Also, many times, with friends, or in classes, I have used your “It´s all fiction” motto. Don´t worry, I give you the credit.


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