My Literary License is a Fake I.D.

There are many things that I do that my wife does not approve of. Some of these things she may not know about. The reason this blog exists is that there were things that I talked about in my columns that my wife did not want next to cute pictures of our innocent children. Commenting on the ills of society and posting pictures of baby’s first steps do not quite gel. More than offensive content, my wife is mostly bothered by the slight inaccuracy in some of my stories. As I read the last column to her before I posted it on the blog, she picked out factual inaccuracies like Alaskan wolves from a helicopter. I explained that saying that Zachary laughed for seven minutes straight is an example of hyperbole, an exaggeration that is perfectly acceptable in the realm of semi-humorous writing. If I read something and laugh my head off, my wife will not be able to collect the dismembership insurance on our policy. And yes, there are some technical issues. When the nurse commented on Zachary’s being “stubborn and difficult” the actual word was recorded in Miranda’s journal as “temperamental”. And, yes, perhaps I did get her other things for Christmas besides a grill and an apron.

In the interest of fairness, I admit that I have fabricated some portions of my blog offerings, but not too much. Not that it matters either. Remember that James Frey guy. Oprah falls in love with him and in the natural evolution of things American women simultaneously fall in love with him. This dude wrote about how being addicted to drugs completely ruined his life, or broke it into, if you will, a million little pieces. The guy apparently made up euphemisms for unknown drugs, like Hoochie Surprise, Moonbeam Mariachis, and Angry Kitten Whiskers. Pages 147 through 214 were filled with only James Taylor lyrics. In chapter 9, he pretty much just writes down the plot and dialogue from a Mr. Belvedere episode. He was found out and plagiarism and fabrication became crimes that people actually cared about. Now it is an epidemic.

What we love best about people caught in the act of fabrication is how much it offends our perceived literary sensibilities. It is a personal affront if an author, who has lulled us into a false sense of security with their alluring alliteration and persnickety personification, happens to be lassoing their lies around the receptive readers. If a book or story is written about something that most people care deeply about or have a vested interest in, sensibilities can become quite tender. On the top of the touchy list are the Holocaust and falling in love. Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat, smelling the financial opportunity in the air like only his people (novelists) can, told his own very personal love story. As a prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany, Herman told about how a girl (who would later become his wife) would toss food over the fence to him so he could survive and later write a book about the event. Turns out that some people who actually knew what they were talking about heard him promoting his upcoming book on, where else but the bastion of all things sacred and holy, Oprah. These people questioned his account, seeing as how there was actually no way that food could be tossed over the fence at the camp that he was in, and that the camp itself was not described accurately, and that he met and married his wife in New York well after World War II. Authorities also wondered about the accuracy of the wedding ceremony, which was described as being performed by the Führer himself along with Anne Frank as the bridesmaid and Roberto Benigni as best man.

For some reason, even Christians get offended when people don’t tell the truth. Recently, Neale Donald Walsch (who, incidentally, plagiarized the E in his name from Oscar Wilde) wrote a book entitled “Conversations with God. A section in that book told of a touching story of a Christmas play that his child attended. The children were holding up letters that were meant to spell out “Christmas Love”. Because they had to invite the “Special Needs” children to participate in the play, Petey happened to hold the “M” upside down so that it spelled out “ChristWas Love”. Touching stuff. Touching enough to make me wonder what use they would have had to spell out the words Christmas Love anyway. Well, turns out that the story was entirely factual, down to the last detail, but happened to be lifted from the previously published writings of someone else, down to the last detail. Walsch apologized, claiming that he had told the story so much that he internalized it as his own. As strange as this sounds, I can sympathize. I haven’t told many people this, but when I was in high school in the suburbs of Chicago, I skipped school one day and took my best friend, whose name was also Cameron, and his sweet Ferrari on an unforgettable “day off” where we attended an unprecedented Wednesday mid-day Cubs game, ate at the finest restaurants in town, and spurred an impulsive choreographed dance routine during a parade that was going on for no reason at all. Now-a-days, though, since I have two children and some responsibility, I have just started my career as a rookie in the Piston Cup racing series. I have quite the attitude and am determined to make it all the way, if only I can finish re-paving the road in this hick town full of people I will eventually come to admire.

Putting the penchant for plagiarism aside, it is fascinating to see the culture that exists today among those who consider themselves a part of the literary elite. These people generally have more than one blog devoted to romantic vampirism and are awaiting the next serialized novel about practicing some form of magic that they were not allowed to dabble with in their youth. People stand in line for hours or even days hoping to be the first to skip over several pages and claim to be the first to read the book in its entirety. People like me stew over how to tap into this market of teenage girls, pre-teen girls, women channeling their own pre-teen girl, and gay men. I could always write about my experience in the Batan Death-March, or how a garage door once shut on my foot and little birdies comforted me, or my courtship with one Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett and our eventual marriage at the Darcy Family Estate. That, or I could just write something entirely fictional. The truth is, when you have the family that I do and the life that I have, you just can’t make this stuff up. As my wife rightfully says, so much of these things that I write are so unbelievably true, there is no need to make up anything. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

That Will Ferrell movie was plagiarized from me, by the way. That actually happened.


teddi said...
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Kara Thacker said...

From what I did hear from your wife, you're proposal and stuff of the like might be a good base jump! :)