This comes up a lot in any discussion on art, and about artists, but especially about literature and about writers; they must serve truth. I guess they don't have to, but their work is pretty much garbage if they don't. Here's one truth: nobody likes made-up stories, but people love made up stories that sound true. Okay, some people do like made up stories that sound untrue, but those people are philistines. That's another truth.
It's also true that truth has a hierarchy, and, on the lowest of rungs we find the so-called, my truth, while up top, beyond the clouds, and maybe even beyond the universe, there is a stark, objective, immalleable truth about me, you, everyone and everything, and we might be lucky to some day glean a tiny fraction of it. Either way, the greats, those who are relentless in their pursuit of truth, aim for it. Aim for the stars and you might hit the moon. Well, why not, it's not perfect but at least you're several million miles removed from the vulgarity of my truth.
But I don't want this to turn into some essay about objective truth and about what is its nature and all that Nietzschean big-brain stuff. Even small, simple truths, can channel the powers of that unreachable and unattainable truth, like those South Beach club promoters handing out line bypass and a complementary shot; the point is, they get you in.
's post about Mustafa is a perfect example.
She wrote a candid narrative about the personal relationship she built with this older co-worker right when she was starting out. She told us how, over time, he began to view her as a daughter, and when she wrote that, we all thought of somebody in our own lives, very much like this man. She told us about the discussions they had on culture and the differences between their home countries and this new world, and about how that brought them closer together. That too, reminded us of people we know. And then she told us, with regret, about her affection for this man who'd shared so much with her, and about her inability to speak on his behalf at the opportune moment. And there's something heartbreaking, but also true about this, because, again, we've all been there haven't we?
And since we're talking about the truth, here I am writing this and weeping (in a very manly way). Because the story resonates with its simple, but unyielding truths, and because it reminds me how we are really all the same. It's so easy to lose sight of that. But truthful writing always reminds us. Who we are (humans) and where our place is (alongside others).
Finally, in spite of its force, truth is ultimately fragile. In truth there is always vulnerability. Though immalleable, it can easily be swept away, drowned out, and ignored. Truth is neither an anvil nor a hammer, but a sword which cuts through pretense. It's what Keni's story, like any truthful story, did to me.
This is why I'm devoted to literature. When a writer bleeds that truth out, it's not the writing but the sharp end of truth that penetrates us. It's the truth that reminds us who we are and makes us better. And it's also why we should always strive to bring it into our writing, above all else.
Of course, those flighty philistines wouldn't know anything about it.