30 July 2013

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

I like Emily Dickinson's poetry. Quite a lot, actually. And one poem that has resonated with me as a writer is "Tell all the truth (1129)".

Tell all the truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

I think this poem is particularly applicable to the coffee house book (and the collection as a whole). The basis of the coffee house book is perspective. The reader learns about a particular event through various perspectives to give an overall view of the coffee house and its community.

Each character whose perspective is given in the coffee house book has his or her own truth. That truth fits into the bigger story, and is part of the truth, but it's only part of the truth. And the truth they tell is slanted based on their individual experiences and biases.

That's what happens in any story that uses first-person point of view, isn't it? The narrator tells his or her own version of events, and it's up to the reader to decide whether or not to believe the story. Every story has the potential to have an unreliable narrator, and the reader is the determining factor.

Every story is told slant, isn't it?

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