What we want to be true

This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

The best insight into the Michael Chabon – Paul Maliszewski controversy I’ve seen yet appears here. Scott McLemee delves into the history of literary hoaxes, then notes that the discussion about this particular one has devolved rather quickly, thanks in part to a “gossipy and curiously inane New York Times article“:

The stakes of the discussion are high: they include the role of the Holocaust in American Jewish identity, the ethical dimension of storytelling, and the fine line between fantasy and the will to believe. But the terms of the argument have degenerated at impressive speed. People who haven’t bothered to read the essay are denouncing Bookforum for irresponsibility in publishing it, and attributing all sorts of interesting motives to Maliszewski. There is a certain vigor of hysteria that goes with confusing uninformed indignation with critical perspective….

If you take the time to read the essay, though, you find a nuanced and searching analysis of the relationships between author and audience, between memory and fantasy, between story-telling and truth-telling. Maliszewski’s point is less that Chabon intends to trick his audience than that (for a variety of reasons) his listeners want the story to be true.

Tingle Alley has a good background on the whole brouhaha here.


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