Thursday, November 11, 2010

Barry Gifford's First and Last Statement on Writing

In the 53rd in a series of posts on 2010 short story collections entered for The Story Prize, Barry Gifford, author of Sad Stories of the Death of Kings (Seven Stories Press), takes aim at literature and lying.

Somehow, I managed to avoid using my creative and compositional skills, such as they have been and may be, in two of the three most obvious platforms for lying: the newspaper business and the advertising business. Instead, I took aim at literature, which Marcel Proust categorized as the finest kind of lying. I’ll never know, of course, if anything I’ve written in this pursuit will have endured, which is just as well. Due to my efforts, I’ve at least had the satisfaction of having been able, for the most part, to stay out of the poorhouse (otherwise known as jail), the nuthouse and the schoolhouse. (Many great books, however, have been written in prisons and insane asylums, so I may have missed out on something; to my knowledge, none have issued forth from the academy, only occasionally despite it.) Of the film business, in which I have periodically toiled, I can only say that truth never has been favorably considered, either as a requirement or a goal. This is not to say that a modicum of veracity or, even more rare, meaning does not slither out from between the cracks now and then. As to the practice of transient judgment known popularly and inaccurately as criticism, it is a category that makes lying, even for ignoble reasons, look good.