Fact and Fiction Re-visited

Janet Malcolm, in her masterly work on the biographies of Plath, makes an interesting point about fiction having more ‘truth’ than non-fiction. It’s fascinating to consider that in some respects fiction could be more true than nonfiction. Fiction is part of a closed world, all in the author’s mind, and even if the author deliberately leaves options open, that openness is part of the author’s created world. With nonfiction, there really is a truth that happened, but there are so many mediators between that truth and the reading audience, each interpreting the facts differently or choosing which facts to reveal, with some having a stake in how the story is presented and understood. How can one be sure of the truth? What’s Fact, what’s Fiction? In ‘Capriccio’ I use the facts of Assia’s life as  a scaffolding on which to build the deeper truth of emotions, thoughts and conversations, using fiction. For example,  in my chapter entitled ‘Edge’, we know the facts are that Sylvia wrote a letter, and asked for stamps, on the night she took her life. The letter, if it was found, has never been disclosed. My excerpt from that letter is invented, an imagined version of what she might have written on that last day. The fictional letter from Sylvia contains the things Assia might have read about herself. We also know that Assia was shocked to read the vituperative language Sylvia wrote about Assia and David in the […]

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On Helen Garner

HOLDEN Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, says: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him (sic) up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” That’s how […]

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This House of Grief

Thoughts on Helen Garner’s latest book I’ve just finished reading ‘This House of Grief’, Garner’s latest non-fiction work. It was almost too painful to read at times, not only because of its ghastly subject matter, but also due to Helen’s signature style: holding nothing back, inviting the reader to share with her the horror of seeing a man accused, wrongly […]

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