It’s easier and more interesting for me to describe something that does exist rather than describing something that does not exist.
I can’t imagine penning 300 pages on something that is only alive in my mind. I’m glad others can but it is something I cannot do.
My chief interest has been to explain more simply what other writers put in a more complicated fashion. As when I was writing about the law or telecommunications. I don’t get much chance to do this writing anymore.
Today is more about today.
Thurber would identify with today’s bloggers,
“Your short-piece writer’s time is not Walter Lippmann’s time, or Stuart Chase’s time, or Professor Einstein’s time. It is his own personal time, circumscribed by the short boundaries of his pain and his embarrassment, in which what happens to his digestion, the rear axle of his car, and the confused flow of his relationships with six or eight persons and two or three buildings is of greater importance than what goes on in the nation or in the universe. He knows vaguely that the nation is not much good any more; he has read that the crust of the earth is shrinking alarmingly and that the universe is growing steadily colder, but he does not believe that any of the three is in half as bad shape as he is.”
This is or was the province of the columnist. These were short-form non-fiction writers who usually had to produce 600 or 700 words every day for a newspaper. The best columnists were syndicated and appeared in dozens to hundreds of different newspapers across the country. Not many columnists or newspapers left anymore.
But there are still outlets online and off line that demand a writer come up with daily cares and concerns. Politically unconcerned writers live in their own world, describing what is in front of them. You can imagine a columnist being part of the gang in the television show Seinfeld.
“Enormous strides are made in star-measurement, theoretical economics, and the manufacture of bombing planes, but he usually doesn’t find out about them until he picks up an old copy of “Time” on a picnic grounds or in the summer house of a friend. He is aware that billions of dollars are stolen every year by bankers and politicians, and that thousands of people are out of work, but these conditions do not worry him a tenth as much as the conviction that he has wasted three months on a stupid psychoanalyst or the suspicion that a piece he has been working on for two long days was done much better and probably more quickly by Robert Benchley in 1924.”
Indeed. The world rolls on. And I have never run out of ideas to explore or explain. I’ve never needed to come up with a world of my own as with a fiction writer. But bully for them.
This is a wonderful perspective. Writing fiction myself, I think fiction writing is discovering the outside world within oneself. I know this sounds confusing, but we’re all part of a bigger picture and dependent on the thoughts, actions and feelings of others. Non-fiction is the statement of facts and the formulation of theories around it. Fiction is the exaggeration of these theories infused with liberal imagination. Thanks for sharing this!
Even facts and The Truth are elusive in non-fiction. An historian tried to recount an important conference of World War II. Each of the people around the conference table went on to write a biography and each of their accounts was at certain points significantly different. Each attendee was listening for different things and each had their own priorities and memories. The historian found it was like reconciling The Gospels. I ramble. Thanks for the comments.
Yes, this is a significant truth. Facts get diluted by different perspectives, opinions, and personally drawn conclusions. There’s a fine line between fiction and non-fiction and it is often crossed many times in both. Thank you for your thoughts. May the mind ramble even more 🙂
Facts are the field of daily stock reports, final sports scores, the height of bridges, and the answers to standard mathematical problems. These are indeed true things. But beauty is also truth as Keats maintained. It needs no fact checking.
Kerouac could have been writing about beauty when he wrote that the mad people he enjoyed “burned like yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!”
Or, as Chrissy Hynde _should_ have sung, “When beauty walks in the room, everybody stands up.”