As Jenny (and I suspect the spouses of many of my readers - you know who you are) will tell you, I can spit out the same story three times and each time will be different. Early in our marriage she asked how that could happen and I reminded her that she did not marry an historian. She married a storyteller. She has come to accept the difference.
But Mr. Shafer does not. He wants to read Mr. Sedaris and know that everything is the precise truth, note for note as it happened. As an example he says, "I find stories that are absolutely true—like the time one of my neighbors, dressed up to party on Saturday night, fell into a 55-gallon drum filled with human excrement and urine—the funniest."
Ha ha. A guy all dressed up falls in shit. That's hilarious.
Perhaps that's why David Sedaris is widely read and Jack Shafer is not.
It's called entertainment. It's not history. It's not reportage. But Shafer gets this b&w distinction in his maw and shakes it like a rag doll.
"If writing fiction is the license Sedaris and other nonfiction humorists need to get at 'larger truths,' why limit this exemption to humorists? Let reporters covering city hall, war, and business to embellish and exaggerate so they can capture "larger truths," too. I'm sure that Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Christopher Newton, and Slate's "monkeyfishing guy" would back this idea, especially if applied retroactively."
That's right. Charlatans like Glass and the Million Little Pieces guy are exactly like David Sedaris.
Except they're not. I'm on record with my umbrage over fictional memoirists, but Sedaris is not in that school. He's a humorist.
And if you make me laugh, I'll give you all the license you need to rearrange facts.
Is that so wrong? I don't think so.