Truth is stranger than fiction: an essay by Robert H. Abel

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Most contemporary fiction writers and poets seem to have adopted a strategy of playing a role to tell a story. Perhaps this is partly in response to recent literary criticism that challenges the authority of the author and proclaims there is no single truth, but only versions of the truth. This certainly does not mean that modern and contemporary writers are without core convictions and are playing some kind of linguistic game—far from it.

As ever in American writing, the stakes are high and the writers aim high and tackle significant problems. What they seem to have accepted, however, is the idea that each of us approaches a problem from our own perspective, our own history and experience in the world, and that these need to be known and revealed before our conclusions or the meaning of our search for conclusions can be understood.

Therefore, as readers, we need to pay attention not only to the story, but to who is telling the story. To judge from contemporary literary works, the idea of the authoritative all-knowing, objective author is dead. No one has all the answers or knows all the facts: to know the truth we must not only work together, but we must also know each other. Who are you? Who am I? And together, what do we know about the world? If there is truth to behold, contemporary writers seem to say, it will only be known when all the pieces of the mosaic are brought into place. Therefore, finding the partial truth, the truth in each of us, is a necessary endeavor and still makes writing an essential practice in our cultures. In our diversity is our strength. No voice worth hearing must go unheard.