Truth and Literature

A World Without MusicJ. Conrad Guest, author of A Retrospect In Death and A World Without Music (plus several other books) just posted a blog about truth and its importance to literature. Like J. Conrad, I believe that fiction should impart “Truth” with a capital letter or even just “truth” with a small letter. If there is no truth in fiction, it is merely entertainment, and that seems a waste of both the human mind and human potential. For sure, it is a waste of my time.

J. Conrad quoted Susan Sontag as saying, “In my view, a fiction writer whose adherence is to literature is, necessarily, someone who thinks about moral problems: about what is just and unjust, what is better or worse, what is repulsive and admirable, what is lamentable and what inspires joy and approbation. This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate — and, therefore, improve — our sympathies.”

Then J. Conrad asks, “How many writers today seek truth in their work, and how many simply identify an audience — for instance, unhappy housewives, or fanatics of vampires or werewolves — and simply write to that audience? The mercenary who writes for a paycheck is really saying that sales are more important than truth.”

It’s interesting to see someone besides me lamenting the lack of truth in fiction — I thought I was the only one who thought fiction should help us see the truth of the world, to see the truth of what is beyond the world, to see the truth of our place in the world. One does not need big words, convoluted sentences, and ponderous tomes to show truth. Simple words and engaging stories can make truth more readily accessible to even someone like me who has spent a lifetime searching for truth.

Literature can take us beyond ourselves, take us deeper into ourselves, take us into the minds and hearts of others to help us understand a greater truth or to see the world in a fresh manner. Good stories are like the first pair of eyeglasses to someone with poor vision. I still remember as a child being bewildered by other people’s uncanny ability to know what even unfamiliar streets were called, but then I got my first pair of glasses, and oh! I understood! They weren’t somehow superior to me in their understanding of the world. They had simply been able to see that which I couldn’t. And that is what fiction should do — enable us to see that which we couldn’t.

Truth seems to be something writers and readers shy away from, especially since so many people believe that truth is relative and so there is no point in discussing it or showing it or even alluding to it. But the truth is, Truth is never relative. Truth is Truth. Only our perception varies. At rock bottom, there is immutable truth. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what that immutable truth is — no one can. It’s bigger than any of us, and yet we all add to and reflect the truth in what we do, and especially what we write. In addition, we each have our own immutable truth. Whether we know ourselves or not, there is truth in us, and perhaps this individual truth is what people mean when they say truth is relative. (Some people do not accept my assessment of myself as being true, for example, and their perception could be right for all I know, but neither their opinion nor mine changes who or what I am.)

I seldom read any more. When writers don’t bother to show me Truth or even their own truth, then the writing seems trivial to me. I’d rather do something more truthful. Dance, perhaps. Executing a perfect triple time step is truth, too.

J. Conrad Guest ends his post with: “In today’s book industry, if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t relevant. But if truth isn’t relevant, what’s that say about the world around us?”

Good question.


Click here to read: What Is Truth? by J. Conrad Guest


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

It’s Christmas, Not Santamas

J. Conrad Guest, author of A Retrospect In Death and A World Without Music (plus several other books) just posted a blog about tolerance, and how there seems to be so little of it, especially now during the Christmas season.

Guest wrote: I’ve long remained publically mute on the subject of Christmas, but this year I voice my opinion. You’re offended that I celebrate Christmas as the birth of a Messiah. You tell me he is but a myth. I have news for you. Santa isn’t real. He doesn’t make toys at his home at the North Pole, nor does he circle the globe on Christmas Eve to deliver toys down the chimneys of billions of people—many who don’t have chimneys. I don’t push on you my belief in God, even though, in my mind, there is a greater chance that He exists than does Santa. But go ahead, put up on your front lawn your inflatable Santa, and the sleigh and reindeer on your roof. I can tolerate that, even if you can’t tolerate the nativity scene on my lawn, and petition City Hall to make me take it down.

nativityHis words struck a chord with me. I get annoyed with having to pander to the intolerant at this time of year. It’s CHRISTmas, for cripes sake. That’s the whole point of the day. No matter what non-Christians are trying to make us all believe, the day is not Santamas. I am sick of the constant message that we must believe in Santa Claus, sick of having that stupid myth foisted on me, sick of the eternal seesawing there is/isn’t a Santa Claus. If people are so willing to accept Santa as an icon of the season (an icon who so obviously isn’t real) then what difference does it make to them if some people use crèches or some other image to personify the day? Crèches are the spirit of the day and more fitting than santas and elves and those stupid flying reindeer. Taking that red-suited image to the height of absurdity, a neighbor has a nativity scene with a Santa praying over the baby. Huh?

I simply don’t get it. Since the non-Christian world adapted a Christian holy day for their own, then they cannot complain about the religiosity. (Supposedly the Christians co-opted a Roman holiday, so it’s ironic that the same thing is happening again but to Christians this time.) Sometimes when I see one message too many about how we can no longer say, “Merry Christmas” because it offends some people, I just want to scream, “Get over it, folks, It’s CHRISTmas. If you don’t like it, start your own damn holiday.”

The Santa myth is particularly odious since the obese gent so obviously favors the rich. It makes poorer kids feel bad that they weren’t good enough to get the rich-kid stuff they wanted. And why engender a belief in such a ridiculous myth in the first place? I knew a guy who fought in Vietnam. There they were at Christmas, hunkered down on some God-forsaken hill that they had just taken for the second or third time. They got to talking about the most disillusioning moment in their lives, and almost all of them said it was when they found out there was no Santa Claus. Why are people still perpetuating such a lie and for no particular reason?

Oops. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get on my soapbox, but as I said, J. Conrad Guest really hit a chord. Wishing you all a tolerant and happy Christmas season.


Related post: What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas?


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Paeans to Teachers, Mothers, and Ancient Civlizations

Mike Simpson, chief editor of Second Wind Publishing, posted a blog today about the heroism of the teachers of Moore Oklahoma using their bodies in an effort to protect their students from the wrath of nature, and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, trying to shield their students from a gunman. He says, “Can you imagine such fierce love, such a totally unreserved willingness to perish for the children they taught? Servicemen and women go to combat knowing that they may be killed or desperately wounded. In the face of that, our nation recognizes their courage and lauds them with high honors—rightly so. Yet when a teacher goes into a classroom intending to impart a daily dose of education to a group of children and ends up putting herself or himself in the path of death for the sake of those kids, I ask myself: is there any individual anywhere who should be more highly honored? In moments of crisis and tragedy, our truest selves emerge. And if we ever wanted to know the “stuff” of which the teachers of Moore and Newtown are made, we found out with perfect clarity.”

“Where the Wind Comes Whistling Down the Plains, Teacher” by Mike Simpson is a blog post worth reading.

While you’re at the Second Wind blog, check out Mother’s Day 2013 by J. Conrad Guest and A Day in Turkey with the Hittites by Mickey Hoffman. Mickey’s travelogues are among the best I have seen/read, making me feel as if I were in these exotic places with her.

And, what the heck, while you’re there, you might as well also check out What is Your Character’s Favorite Color? — by Pat Bertram. It’s an older post, doesn’t really fit in with the theme of this article of paeans, but it is a perennial favorite of the Second Wind blog readers, so that’s sort of a paean.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook 

Prolific Blogger Times Three

The blogosphere has spoken. For two years I have kept up this blog to little acclaim, and now that I’ve taken a step back for a short while, barely blogging once a week, I have won not one, not two, but three prolific blogger awards! So now that the blogosphere has spoken, what is it saying, that I’m more interesting when I don’t blog? That I should hurry back and refocus my energies on blogging again? I hope it’s the second. Perhaps by the end of this month I will be able to return to a more regular blogging schedule, but until then, you should check out the blogs of those who gave me the awards. They really are prolific and terrific bloggers!

 A.F. Stewart’s Blog

JaxPop, Haunted City Writer

Joylene Nowell Butler, One Moment at a time on Cluculz Lake

Congratulations are especially in order since blogging on a regular basis is giving way to microblogging on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Friendster, particularly among young people. Apparently, the long form of blogging, which tends to be 300-500 words, is way too involved and time-consuming for the younger set. Those of us over thirty are still plogging away.

And while I have your attention: are you a romantic who loves baseball? Be sure to enter J. Conrad Guest’s contest, and you might win a signed copy of his novel Backstop and a signed baseball. All you have to do is write 200 words about a romantic baseball date, either real or imagined. 200 words? Not much for all you prolific bloggers out there! Send your entry to  I’ll put in a good word for you. (Now you only have to write 199 words!)