An experienced, industrious, ambitious, and quite often picturesque liar.
Still another bit of ridiculousness works its way into my life around this time, and guess where from? Good old Book TV on C-Span! I’ve missed it, longed for it even; my satellite TV package down in Costa Rica doesn’t include C-Span in its programming. I’ve no doubt missed a lot of interesting stuff over the months, the years; interesting stuff like my demented editor mentioning my name as someone she’s “working with” during panel discussions, and Frank McCort lying about why he doesn’t use quotation marks in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes. (Also: Watching Book TV is a pastime, like baseball; it helps get you through the day.)
Slumped on the couch, slug-like, the tuberculosis and Lymes disease and the other tick-borne microbes pulsing, I’m not drooling, not exactly, but that’s only due to the cant of my head being such that the drool pool collecting in the hollow of my cheek has not yet overflowed from my slack mouth. Meanwhile, this guy, a writer, a nonfiction writer, comes on Book TV, lecturing on the subject of creative nonfiction. “Creative Nonfiction” is the title of the lecture, in fact; it’s right up there super-ed on the Book TV screen. I actually perk up at this, come out of my slump a bit, and stem the drool. This oughta be good, I’m thinking, just based on the title of the lecture. “Creative Nonfiction.”
Okay. We don’t really know what nonfiction means, right? I’ve beaten that one to death. But we sort of know. Something to do with not making up stuff, right? So let’s deal with the other word in the title of the lecture. Creative.
I’m going to make an exception to my no dictionary rule and go online to look up the word creative. Hang in for minute; I’ll be right back…
There was a lot of stuff, crapola, under creative; the only definition that applies to the "creative nonfiction" usage was this one: Imaginative. So I figured I better look up that one.
Tending to indulge in the fanciful or make believe. Plus: Having no truth; false. In other words, to make up stuff.
So, “Creative Nonfiction” – the title of this nonfiction writer’s lecture -- pretty much means making up stuff while you’re not making up stuff. The reason I’m thinking this guy’s lecture oughta be good is a morbid one of course, having to do with my getting a kick out of listening to lectures by people who have their heads up their asses (HUYA!). And the lecture is good, but it takes some time and patience.
Fine, I’m not going anywhere.
The nonfiction writer lectures on and on, blah blah, and boy is he passionate about the subject of creative nonfiction, i.e., making up stuff while you’re not making up stuff. Finally the lecture is winding down and I’m still waiting for the nonfiction writer to get to the subject of making up stuff. I mean he’s talked all around it for almost an hour. And finally he does, right at the end, although the phrase making up stuff does not work its way in. Interestingly, though, upon broaching the subject of “the ethics of nonfiction” -- of the ethics of making up stuff while you’re not making up stuff -- the nonfiction writer for the first time in his lecture hems and haws, talking a streak for about two minutes without saying anything whatsoever. So I’m getting drowsy, plus slumpy and drooly again; plus, in spite of my mutli-dis-ease ridden sorry ass condition I’ve been working on this book, the nonfiction book you are now reading, since 4 AM, and hence I’m beset with some big time after-writing throes on top of all of the above. So add some profound fatigue and loss of essence to the mix. Plus terminal you-know-what, with a bit of the dark shit, whatever that is, on the side.
So now I’m not really paying attention to the nonfiction writer’s hemming and hawing, but then he launches into a personal anecdote on the subject of ethics in nonfiction and suddenly I’m alert; I almost sit up; I may have gulped down my drool pool. (Memory fails.)
A while back, the nonfiction writer says, he was at some college doing a lecture on creative nonfiction and suddenly a woman in the front row jumped up, flashed a badge and yelled out, “Nonfiction police!” Then the woman bolted from the lecture, the nonfiction writer continues, never to be seen again, even though he followed her out and searched for her high and low to find out who she was. She’d disappeared like a will o’ the wisp. But she was "just gone." The sledgehammer subtext of the anecdote was that maybe she was some sort of phantom or mythic persona or whatever. “True story,” the nonfiction writer assures me on good old Book TV. Then he says this: “I have many witnesses.”
“Asshole!” Someone yells at the top of his lungs.
It’s me yelling, at the top of my lungs, consumptive lungs, sitting alone and beset by you-name-it in my rental hideaway at Montauk, outrage having supplanted my amusement at this guy’s bullshit.
Why the yelling and the outrage?
In order to make a point about ethics in nonfiction – ethics regarding making up stuff while you're not making up stuff – the nonfiction writer made up this complete crock of shit story and then, to compound that, lied further, saying, “True story... I have many witnesses.”
Worse, people in the audience laughed; a couple jerks even clapped. The nonfiction writer paused, said something pithy but which I don’t remember, then exited to more applause.
What the nonfiction writer should have done – would have done in a better world than this one -- after the laughter and applause died out, is this: He should have smiled and said, “Thanks, folks, but you got suckered. That incident never happened. I made it up to make my nonfiction point, which was actually a valid one. Isn’t nonfiction… interesting?”
Then he should have walked out without another word.
As it is, the lying sack of shit is going on my list: If I recover from all my dis-eases I’m going back to Panama and look up Hector-the-assassin’s understudy at the border town whorehouse where I got semi-raped by the alpha whore who didn't like my attitude and include him in the package deal that started with Bob Woodward and James Frey. That list.
Can't You Get Along With Anyone? is available wherever books are sold, minus the above chapter, which I cut.