Living Between The Facts

In case you missed it, Sarah Palin was in Boston recently and was asked for her impressions of Paul Revere and his historic ride. Her answer was less than historically accurate, much to the delight of her political opponents. True, her answer was a particularly jumbled bit of Palinese, but we all get tangled up in what we’re saying sometimes. The coda to this story, however, was that her followers apparently went on Wikipedia and changed the entry for Paul Revere to match Palin’s quote. Wikipedia changed it back. History is accurate again. Or maybe it’s not. Before Andre Dubus spoke at last year’s Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, he informed me that his biography in our conference catalogue was inaccurate. “Don’t worry about it,” he assured me. “You guys probably got it off Wikipedia.”

I have to admit I was more disappointed in Wikipedia’s inaccuracy than in the PNWA’S. My family and I used Wikipedia all the time—now what would we do? Keep using Wikipedia, turns out. History’s ineluctable fuzziness may be all for the better. In fact, in her upcoming interview, Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks explained that when searching for a story, she specifically seeks a swath of history with noticeable gaps. What verifiably happened is the historian’s domain; what lies in between belongs to the fiction writer.

I am certainly someone more comfortable living in between the facts. From this open space I can better imagine what might be. The only time I worry about repeating history is when I spend too long staring at it. The longer I stare at it, the more I can imagine nothing else. The longer I stare at it, the more I forget the direction in which life is actually led.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

More Author Articles

Follow wdbk on Twitter