Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One about making sense

Tom Clancy died, so it was easy and even likely, if one frolicked on the internet long enough, to run into this quote by him:

The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.

I did frolic on the internet and did read that quote. I thought it was a pretty snappy quote for a writer I bore no great respect for. Did I need to revise my opinions? Are Tom Clancy novels packed with pithy insights stored neatly amongst the military hardware? I decided to research. Oh no, not by reading Tom Clancy novels. My blog is on a very tight schedule. Even if those Clancy novels move adroitly along from one submarine chase to another they're still absolute bricks.  I read quotes.

 Leo Rosten:

Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to make sense.


Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.

And finally, Mark Twain said:

The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.

We have a hit! We have a hit! Man your battle stations! Full power aft!

So, did I just come here today to mock and criticize a guy who just died? 

Well, when you ask it like that, um, no, god, why would I do that? I came here to make some really important point. Probably. Just let me think for a second. I can't think with all this pressure! 

Okay, I thought of one. Or, um, here's the one I had all along. Thanks for your patience. 

My point is that I don't think the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense. And I thought it might appear easy and churlish just to disagree with Tom Clancy. So instead I disagree with Mark Twain, Emerson, and Leo Rosten, which is not, generally speaking, some great recipe for wisdom. Nevertheless, yes, I disagree.

I think fiction works, and really all art, because of the overwhelming human compulsion to make sense of things. One might even say we are compelled to impose sense. The novelist does it, the reader of the novelist does it to the novel, and the blogger does it to the reader of the novelist reading the novel. And we do it to life. We do it with all our Gods and for the bests and with our interpretations of the world around us. We are inveterate creators of sense. Life and fiction stand shoulder to shoulder here. Life makes about as much sense as fiction and most of it's in the interpretation.

As Dr. Seuss said:

No matter what you do, somebody always imputes meaning into your books.

Or, as I might put it:

No matter what one does, someone always imputes meaning into books. 

Let it be my epitaph. I thought of it myself.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, people project all sorts of things onto art. If I think I am working with realism I'm always astonished at how a narrative can be interpreted in ways totally beyond my intent. Maybe my work is just lousy.


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