Fictional Truths

In the same storytelling vein of yesterday’s post, I have been reminded of the idea that fiction can be effectively used to illuminate truth. While reading some of Hunter S. Thompson’s writings, particularly reflections on his infamous style called Gonzo Journalism, he mentions William Faulkner. Thompson writes “it is a style of ‘reporting’ based on William Faulkner’s idea that the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism…” The idea behind Gonzo journalism was to record events as they happened and submit them for publishing without any editing. A very interesting idea that Thompson points out is that neither fiction nor journalism is truer than the other, but that they are different means to the same end.

Writer's Block

Image by thorinside via Flickr

I think that no one individual can look at truth.  It blinds you.  You look at it and you see one phase of it.  Someone else looks at it and sees a slightly awry phase of it.  But taken all together, the truth is in what they saw though nobody saw the truth intact.

-       William Faulkner

It seems that a fictional construct can be used to frame certain events or cultural phenomena in such a way as to make these “truths” self-apparent. Many of Thompson’s writings seem to succeed at this. While the story centers on a real event, the Kentucky Derby for example, he intertwines enough fiction and absurdity to make his point: “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Fiction is used as a tool to illuminate the truth he sees in the event, the strangeness of it all, the bizarre people and culture.

This idea is not a stranger to the architectural world either. Columbia Univeristy’s C-Lab, in conjunction with Archis and AMO published Volume 20: Storytelling. According to the brief,

Volume 20 is dedicated to the art of storytelling. It presents the storylines of current events and architecture to show that while the truth is important, so is the ability of fiction to elevate fact. Perhaps the best way to eventually understand our era is through narratives that distort, pervert and animate reality?

In addition The Architecture and Urbanism Design Collaborative (AUDC) published a book called Blue Monday: Stories of Absurd Realities and Natural Philosophies. In it, they attempt to use the tools of architecture to perform speculative research from the periphery. They use three specific stories of modern culture to “offer glimpses into our increasingly perverse relationship to architecture, cities, and objects.

Storytelling, whether fictional or not, has proven to be a valuable tool frame certain truths.

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