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David Arthur Walters

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Mister Netwit's Faction

1/28/2006 7:20:00 AM

by David Arthur Walters


Opinion: A new writing category surfaces







Mister Netwit's Faction


Journalism



 On the contemporary con-fusion of fiction- nonfiction

An example of the contemporary distaste for reality and a puerile affection for the shallow fancies of easily read trashy novellas:

A certain critic, whom I shall call Mister Netwit, was bored with my interview with a Cuban-American cubosurrealist artist, wherein we discussed our differing perspectives on Fidel Castro and the United States. During the interview, published with few embellishments, I advocated my free speech program, 'Habla Libremente por Cuba', and argued that Mr. Castro's repression of dissent was foolish and contrary to the interests of the Cuban Revolution.

My free speech was not good enough for Mister Netwit. He said he had been to Cuba and was tired of hearing the same old subjects aired. Nonetheless, mainstream media still airs those old subjects because a large audience for them exists.

Mister Netwit was bored. Fine, no problem. However, although his own writing is rather boring, Mister Netwit deigned to teach me how to transcribe an interview:

Turn it into a "story", he urged, into a composition not altogether fictitious nor factual, but factious - an adjectival derivation from the nominal category he calls 'faction.'

Not a bad idea for someone who wants to entertain his audience with a novella. However, my intention was not to write a novella, but to transcribe a conversation for those who might or might not be interested in its content. Yet Mister Netwit apparently believes that everything he reads should be, in the best of all possible worlds, 'faction,' and I am moved to dwell on that rather selfish and neurotic perspective on our thousand worlds, rather than the impertinence of his particular criticism.

At first glance I thought Mr. Netwit's 'faction' was 'fiction' mispelled, for 'faction' refers to an abnormally contentious or self-seeking group within a larger group - a 'factious' party would be a contentious party. Perchance Mister Netwit and his ilk, to suit the confusion of reality with fantasy, unwittingly have a double-meaning in mind. "Use the fact to create fiction... faction," advised Mister Netwit.

After all, asked Mister Netwit, is not that why "we" writers write? We are here to write faction. That is, to tell fictitious stories, forgetting the other purposes of composition teachers tried to drum into our dense heads in high school. Of course our teachers were faulted for emphasizing exposition, which requires a great deal of hard thinking, over narration, description and persuasion. And now it appears that a certain faction of writers and teachers alike are wreaking vengeance on the honest person's penchant for nonfiction, abusing its facts by twisting them into a pack of lies, at worst, and a slew of half-truths, at best. The test of success: whether or not the resulting 'faction' is an "easy read": Who wants to think hard nowadays, when we have a few experts and computers to do the grunt-work?

Of course philosophers might say that Mister Netwit's faction corresponds with the fact that reality as we conceive it is an illusion. The truth is never wholly known, and what we know of it cannot be perfectly expressed no matter how concisely put in particular or general terms. Human expression is necessarily metaphorical and metaphysical; sentimental metaphors excite us more than arid metaphysics. Yet metaphysics, devoid of dirty details, is far more sublime. Certain Arab philosophers climbed their logical ladders to Supreme Being itself, and claimed from the summit that their transcental mode was the higher way. Of course one might compose vulgar little stories to describe such being to those who are ignorant of it, and hence by indirection persuade them of the existence of ultimate reality.

Nevertheless, whether our subjects of interest are along the dirt road or at the end of the highway, honest writers will often draw a line, imaginary though it might be, between fiction and nonfiction, or rather between lies and truths, for truth is sometimes called fiction to protect the guilty. The faction that hews to faction has a right to their faction, and their intentional confusion of fiction with nonfiction might amuse us when we are out of sorts, but the truth shall always preside over our domain. When the faction-writers know exactly what nonfiction is, we may turn to them for further advice.


 
 


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