Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Truth

I read an Indie (aka Self-Published) novel recently. I can't say it was good. It kind of wasn't. The writing was on par for some of my mid-range students. The formatting was atrocious, and the errors numerous, and, through the unhappy combination of the two, most of the sentences and paragraphs read like they'd been through a blender. I had to read a lot of the bits multiple times to understand them. So it wasn't great.

But, yet, something about it stuck with me.

I appreciate beautiful writing. Normally, typos and grammatical errors can pull me right out of the book, and this book was no different. But, the overall feel didn't dissipate for some time afterwards. With better execution and editing, it might have been a great book.

But I'm not really writing about the grammar here, but about that Other Thing that caught my attention.

Truth.

Now, having been in the university system as long as I have, I know Truth is an iffy word for me. Capital-T Truth - does it exist? Likely not, on the grander scale. But, I think for authors it does.

There were moments in this book when the author showed genuine, fearless Truth. Glimpses of himself. Real, honest, raw insights into his childhood, which was the kind no one should have to endure.

I don't know, perhaps all of that emotion and honesty got in the way of the technical aspects of his writing. I could understand that. It happens to all of us, even when we aren't writing such harrowing tales (which is why I thank the heavens for objective editors).

What is this thing, authorial Truth?

For me, it's when I feel like I am no longer reading a book by a stranger, but hearing the intimate, confessional whispers of someone close by. Some of the best authors can make you feel this way through the most fantastic fictions; others through unflinching recounting of their real history. But, as a reader, you feel it to the marrow. You are sucked into the most painful empathy. When the author-as-child cries out, you know the author still feels that cry, and you feel it, too. This, to me, is Truth.

There have been brief moments when I have written my own Truth.

Even in some of my published works, I can see the honesty, crouched and veiled to my satisfaction. Sometimes, too much honesty, and I am grateful most of my readers don't know me personally, because I wouldn't be that honest with people I actually know in real life. I don't write about true events in my published works (so far), but I write about things I've actually felt, and I can see it lurking around the edges of my characters' minds.

But, for the most part, I do flinch. I protect, I huddle, and I hoard my Truth. It wouldn't be too far off the mark to call me Standoffish. My personality is generally, "Friend to all, close to none." I wasn't born under a poker table, but I should have been.

This book, for all its glaring errors, made me ask myself why that should be. Is that what's missing from my books? Would they be better if I didn't edit out so much Truth? Will these new projects, some of them extremely close to me, be better if I stop being so guarded?

Can I summon the courage?

It's hard to tell, but I thank that author for his honesty and Truth, and for making me ask these questions. Writers are blessed people. We have so much productivity in our profession from which to draw such questions, thoughts, rambles. I found some in a rather unlikely place, this time, which ennobled the book in my eyes, whatever the style. Beauty can be more than just the lines, I think.

Long live Truth.

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