Friday, December 11, 2009

A Gift to Yourself and Others

It’s that time of year when a person’s mind drifts to…presents. In these strange, hard times—economic and otherwise—how about giving a gift to yourself, one that keeps on giving? Take a moment to remember a book that blew you away.

Since I’m a nonfiction writer and this is a blog about nonfiction, I figured I should/would come up with a nonfiction example. But The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s great book about soldiers’ experiences in Vietnam and war in general, popped into my mind even though the story is a weird mix of fiction and nonfiction.

I haven’t read The Things They Carried since it came out about 20 years ago. I couldn’t tell you many specific events that happened in it, but I’ll never forget two things. Every second of reading that book made you feel intensely alive. And, even when O’Brien made something up, it had the ring of truth. Actually this was one of his major points—that facts and truth aren’t always one and the same.

As a nonfiction writer, am I getting myself into trouble here? Am I advocating Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness?” Or unconsciously trying to convince myself that I can bend the facts in the book I’m writing to create a better effect, a deeper truth? Nah.

The Things They Carried was a profound book, I recommend it to all. In terms of nonfiction, it helped me realize that you can’t rely merely on facts to tell the Truth, but when you have both of them in one place, that’s a place you want to visit.

Okay, that’s one of my incredible reading experiences. What’s one of yours?

1 comment:

Gretchen Woelfle said...

I agree with everything you say about The Things They Carried. It is a story that never stops giving.
The book I'm reading right now is a stunner too. A new YA historical novel: The Brother's Story by Katherine Sturtevant. Universal story told with exquisite period detail.