Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, & "Slice of Life"

Posted by Walt

“Slice of Life” writers, such as Ernie Pyle, Erma Bombeck, and Dave Barry, have occasionally been accused of exaggeration. A charge often leveled by parents, spouses, offspring, and just about anyone else who enjoys the gift of knowing them. To which I say: “Tosh” (and other words of which Spell Check is ignorant).

Of course writers exaggerate. Any who have the ambition of eating regularly are forced to by circumstance. Let’s face it; most writers’ lives are BORING! As an example, just look at the lives of such writers as Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, and Hunter S. Thompson. Ennui by the bucket-full.

In my own case, just this morning, my better half hit me upside the head with a chunk of wifely reproach, “My Uncle Sid was NOT an ax-murderer!”

“Yeah, but it was funnier than his being charged with Public Intoxication, Risking a Catastrophe, and Moose-riding in a City Council Meeting.”

With this kind of lousy material, a writer of “Slice of Life” has to exaggerate just to keep the readers from flipping to last week’s horoscope.

What to do?

Number one, the writer has to be honest with themself. There is a hard and fast difference between heinous lying and mere exaggeration for the sake of literature. A lie is untruth mixed about 50% with truth. On the other hand, exaggeration is about one half truth mixed with untruth. If one keeps these two definitions in mind, there will never be confusion.

It should also be kept in mind that “Slice of Life” should be just as factual as most history (both traditional and revisionist), media reportage, and anything posted online. After all, the writer is telling the stories of their life and those of the people around them. Anything else is merely tall tales, myth and legend.

As my cousin Rory said when caught making a questionable statement during his trial, “Well, that’s the way it shoulda been!”

As a note, Catholic writers of “Slice of Life” should view such a pastime as an excellent reason to partake of the sacramental life of the Church—especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

6 June 2011: Feast of St. Jarlath

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