Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

We only get this day once every four years. A gift, the anniversary of nothingness from the year before. The day when we're all—or most of us, at least—perpetually less than twenty. Heck, I'm only eight in Leap Days.

Today I pulled down my McSweeney's 8 from the shelf. There's a chary balance, as a writer, between reading and writing. It's so easy to sidle over to the bookshelf, and think—I should just do some serious reading today.

But I digress. McSweeney's 8 happens to be full of stories about truth and fiction and the difference between the two. The one I happened to flip to, the one I had dog-eared, was a story/essay by Jonathan Ames, about how two chapters of his novel were stolen by a woman named Julia, the daughter of a famous writer, who deluded him for months into believing that he was being invited to Sweden for a symposium held by a literary magazine. Halfway through reading the essay, which I assumed was autobiographical, I began to question whether it was in fact fiction.

In it, Julia publishes her novel with the same publisher, with an epigram from Balzac: “How fondly swindlers coddle their dupes.”

So who's swindling whom? The best part is not knowing.

Then this review, of a book based on a Believer article, also published by McSweeney's, about an essayist's war with his fact-checker over facts. And the reviewer folds his facts around, too.

“Story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth,” said Tim O'Brien, as quoted by Dan Kois. But he may have been lying.

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