“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…”
When 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.
You may contend that anyone who denies the validity of non-fiction also commits acts like denying the Holocaust or questioning the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth; or perhaps you are more in agreement with Pankaj Mishra who suggests there are “porous boundaries of fiction and nonfiction;” then again, you might subscribe to the oft heard conclusion that fiction is lying whereas non-fiction is truth.
I have regularly argued that non-fiction is just a degree of fiction and is no more, and possibly less, the truth than is fiction. Non-fiction and fiction are both imaginative constructs developed in the mind of man based on past events and experiences and seasoned with a healthy dose of the human brain’s ability to bring both order and imagination to the writer’s craft.
You might have noticed in the last two or three days that This American Life has retracted the story exposing all the evil and destructive activities at Foxconn, the manufacturing plant in China that makes Apple products. It’s not that Apple or Foxconn are without blame, but it seems that the writer of the original article fabricated a great deal of his exposé, presumably to make it more immediate and a better story. Yesterday, when the new iPad was being first sold in the Apple Stores, there was a call to boycott those stores based on the poor treatment of workers at Foxconn; but how much of that poor treatment was pure fiction?