Saturday, February 15, 2014

Is it all a lie?

It’s a typical Saturday.  Typical Saturday schedule.  Prepping for company arriving tomorrow afternoon.  Down to the last couple of basketball games for the season.  Had a wonderful day out with my Wife yesterday.  We opted for the Valentine’s lunch instead of dinner and it was a good choice.  Cheesecake and Ikea.  The great thing about an uncrowded Ikea is that it lets you consider how to rearrange what you already have into something you want.  (Sort of like getting into a second draft.)

I found the perfect home office.  I was absorbed.  And she stopped and then said out loud everything I was thinking.  I even took a picture.

This morning I read a great essay by Herbert Gold asking “What’s the difference between a lie and a short story?”  My children have asked me that.  I’ve pondered that.  We put a very strong emphasis on honesty in our home.  It is, perhaps, the single most important character trait to us.  We don’t like fake and we don’t like lies.  So how is that I can write fiction?  That we can enjoy good movies?  I was very pleased with Mr. Gold’s reasoning.

In short, he said that a short story is a lie that teaches you about the world.  It isn’t for gain, isn’t for avoiding what’s due.  It’s a tale that people want to listen to.  It’s a lie that different than a dream.  He humorously suggested that the number one reason for divorce in our country is the recitation of the previous night’s dreams at the breakfast table.  Who cares?  His point was simply that a well told story is a fiction that we can relate to.  We can put ourselves in it and we can find out about ourselves.  He went further and said that for him, when reading about divorce or alcoholism – things he’s experienced – the story become cathartic for him.  A chance to commune with the characters and find a bit more peace in his own life.

Maybe that’s why I love “The Wedding Singer”, “Notting Hill”, and “Music and Lyrics.”


  1. This post reminded me of something I found in preparation for my VBC class tonight. It comes from Poe had definite ideas about the style and composition of the short story. To begin with, despite his wonderfully realistic descriptions..., he advocated art over reality and believed that the artificial contrivances of the writer’s imagination could reveal more truth about the human condition than faithful adherence to observed reality. As Poe saw it, the short story was the ideal medium for conveying artistic insight because the reader was likely to give it his or her concentrated attention for the brief time it took to read it. Above all else, he insisted that the writer should make every part of the short story contribute to its total effect.

    I would say that art and reality both show truth but in different says. On the other hand, they can both be misleading. Also, we must remember that art does not have to be didactic; we can enjoy art just because it's enjoyable.

    1. What wonderful insight. It really gets to the heart of the issue. Poe's observation brings everything full circle -- insuring that every word propels the story allows the fiction to clarify real life.