Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Rosenblat Ruse

Somewhere in the universe, there exists a bright, hard line between fact and fiction. Writers often embellish stories with metaphor and simile- perhaps accurate, perhaps not- but a creation that tells a tale, paints a picture with words. Maybe some things happened, maybe some things did not, yet the words exist for a purpose- to tell a story, to provide commentary or description and to teach.

In the world of creative non-fiction, the line is not hard and fast, but a blurry, undulating, living, breathing thing: Life experience written as commentary, somewhat fictionalized or embellished- words woven in a unique way that is brand new. Does this make it fiction, a work of literal truth or a blending of the two?

The Rosenblat tale has unfolded in the media over the last several weeks, again ensnaring Oprah, the Hallmark Channel and the nightly news outlets. The tale was literally unbelievable. Yet it was a hopeful story of true love, ashes rising out of the horrors of the Holocaust, to be marketed at Valentine's Day.

It's a fiction, not a biography and therein lies the rub. What was taken to be true, was in fact a fabrication that came to Rosenblat's mind, after being shot in a robbery, in the form of his dead mother imploring him to tell this story. Wherever it came from, people who heard it wanted it to be true. But there came the great unraveling. The New Republic grabbed a hold of it and shook the proverbial teeth right out of Rosenblat's skull in this article "The Greatest Love Story Ever Sold."

Fiction? Creative Nonfiction? A Lie? This posting on the Brevity (Creative Nonfiction) blog was intriguing not so much for the blog itself but for the comments. Comment number 5 from this article is a freelance journalist taking stabs at The New Republic for not providing credit the journalist felt was due given his self proclaimed ties to the story and the "scoop" that got away. So now we can add to the sordid tale plagiarism? Theft? Surely folly begets more folly.

In this mess of truth, fabrications and slights, the line between truth and fiction, wherever it is, has clearly been crossed and perhaps in the reporting, so has the sticky wicket of professional attribution- if that's what really happened. Sadly at the very heart of this is a story, a fiction, that is worth something in the literary world even if only as creative writing. Most baffling is the multiplicative failure of editors, the Rosenblat family, the Rosenblats themselves and anyone else involved in the project to call it a fiction and let the work stand on its own as such.


Sparky ♥ ∞ and Wiregrass Steve said...

Gosh, sounds like an interesting story one way or 'tother! I don't watch Oprah and haven't heard of any of this. I'll have to read up on it to give a more intelligent opinion. :o) Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Sparky ♥ ∞

Cynthia said...

Amazing how we expect our writers to tell the truth but much of what we read is really created to be intersting...see how that can get you in trouble?? Rule #1 Never lie to Oprah ...all tall tales will take you down. (She's so visible!)

Cynthia said...

er...interesting, that is.

Just B said...

Glad you made it over to my blog...

This is a beautiful piece of writing about another intricate piece of writing.

What is anyone's truth really? What I remember is not what my sister who was by my side growing up remembers. The childhood of my daughters that I stand witness to is not exactly the same childhood they will someday recall (most likely in a therapist's office).

Everything is some sort of fiction--even the news!!

I look forward to having the time to browse around your blog soon.

Country Girl said...

An extremely well-written post on a subject that I'm ashamed to say I've heard nothing about. Must look into this. Thanks for the heads up.
I should have asked YOU to write my pitiful little movie review I just posted today!!

JBA said...

Come on now! I loved your movie review and it made me smile and want to see the movie. You could have sold me popcorn!