All roads lead to Rome

“The novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth—not a different truth: the same truth—only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes.  Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.” – Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative (emphasis in original)

5 thoughts on “All roads lead to Rome”

  1. Yes to this–in today’s NYT Sunday Review Colman Toibin has a profound essay about the slippage between truth and fiction. I have less and less respect for writing purists.

    1. I’ve long believed, as a writer, that it is the story that counts. If I were a journalist or an historian, I would want to tell as factual a tale as possible, since that is what is expected of writers in those professions. As a fiction writer, I try to display the universal in the particular in stories which, while they are often derived from my view of incidents which I know occurred, I craft as fiction so that the burrs may be polished off and the joins made smooth.

      Many readers and writers want to know if a story is what they may consider to be true or not. They are looking for some permission outside of themselves to have a reaction they may not trust having entirely on their own responsibility. When last I was in writing school several of my fellow students wanted to know how much my stories may have been what they considered to be true. I told them, “They’re as true as you want them to be.” This was not only not deemed an acceptable response, it was an answer that usually left them upset.

      (I have some quotes from Joy Harjo I found yesterday in an old notebook. I’m going to send them your way.)

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