Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Million Little Grouses

Fascinated by this week's war of words
over fact and fiction in American literature
-- but missed my commentary on NPR this weekend?

Not a problem! You can listen online.


Bookworm said...

Here I was looking for a preview of coming attractions, but I see I'll have to wait until I hear your voice (which will have its own pleasures, of course).

Ranando said...


I'll be there, that's great.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

We might not get it until next month out here in the sticks. But, if it's on, I'll watch it.

Ron Franscell said...

It's radio, Patrick. And I imagine your corner of Oregon is festooned with public radio stations!

If it were TV, I wouldn't do it. I definitely have a face for radio!

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Ron, I just noticed that. We only have one NPR station here (which I listen to for the classical music) and I can only get it on one radio in one of the cars which Chuck and Andy have just taken into town for shopping. All Things Considered comes on later this evening so maybe they'll be back by then.

Ron Franscell said...

Once it airs, NPR ( will also post an audio file of it, so you can hear it online. The link to All Things Considered-Weekend is:

Happy ... hearing?

Ranando said...


Very well said, nice job. I'd like you to know that I came in from surfing to hear this and I'm glad I did.

It's nice to have a voice to a blog.

It's amazing how much people lie and it's really amazing on how many people believe them.

Ron Franscell said...

Surfing? My goodness, I had no intention of interrupting a perfect day!

But thank you.

Anonymous said...

Why are people upset that a drunk and an addict would make stuff up?
Is this really a surprise?
I deal with drunks and addicts on an almost daily basis, I assume at least half of what they are telling me isn't factual. That was my attitude towards the book as well.

Robert Fong said...

I caught Mary Karr in a slight fabrication and mentioned it to her as she was signing her book for me. She smiled and said it was too good to leave out. Her memoir may very well have paved the way for Frey's supposed literary license. She however wrote "The Liar's Club" in the voice of a 7 year old. That to me kind of changes the rules.
"The Blair Witch Project" was carefully crafted as truth for months on a web site prior to the film's release. After it debuted as a surprise number one hit people continued to showed up in droves to see what all the fuss was about. Many of the teenagers that had been reading the web site were further fooled by the improvisational style of the dialogue. That was a multimillion dollar con, but no one really called the filmmakers on it because the subject matter involved the supernatural. Chester Moore with his bigfoot trackings in the Big Thicket is involved in the same damn thing. I enjoyed your piece. Where are you recording it?

Ron Franscell said...

Robert -- Oh, the examples of fictionalized fact (and fiction imitating fact) abound, from D.W. Griffith to Hunter S. Thompson. Your observations are excellent ones.

On one hand, we seldom get excited about anything that doesn't perpetrate a widespread swindle, such as Mary Karr's "Liar's Club" (which I agree will truly get more latitude because it's memory through a childhood prism.) I've recently read that the tolerable "plus-or-minus" of misremembered or fabricated fact in a memoir is under 5% (although it's beyond me how one measures.)

On the other, readers often WANT to be bamboozled. Remember "Bridges of Madison County," where readers believed the novel's premise of a National Geographic photographer in Iowa ... and called by the hundreds to get that particular back issue?

And Hollywood ... don't get me started. Even if you see "A True Story" on the credits, it's not. Hollywood has no concept of authenticity, even in many documentaries. As Michael Moore proved during the elections with "Fahrenheit 911," even the documentary filmmaker frequently has a point of view that's being presented to the exclusion of other facts. Why? Filmmakers are aiming for an emotional reaction through light and sound, and they have only a couple hours to do it. It's a big magic show. They don't just embrace illusion, they swim in it every day.

I occupy an odd niche in this world. By day, I'm a newspaperman and I believe more passionately in authenticity and fact than anything short of my two children. By night, I make up stories relentlessly in my novels (well, except for my true crime/memoir "FALL" coming later this year.) I've wandered around the concept of fact/authenticity for a long, long time, considering all the angles.

Someday, over a beer, I'll tell you who must work harder -- journalist or novelist -- for the reader's trust. You might be surprised.

(I record my NPR commentaries at KVLU.)