Where Fact Can Be Fiction

I’ve been in a book group for ten years. I’ll admit that the book discussion aspect of our meetings is fairly small compared to the gossiping. But that’s what is great about books. They bring people together.

Being part of a book group means that I read books that I wouldn’t normally choose. It’s a bit like a blind date. Sometimes the book doesn’t resonate with me, other times I’m glad that it was put in my hands.

Last month, we read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Vintage Books, 2009 – bestseller). This is a non-fiction account of a family during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. There were parts of it that I skipped because it went into more detail than interested me but at the end I was quite enamoured by this family and what they went through during this horrific event. This was exacerbated by the fact that they are Muslim and were viewed suspiciously because of 9/11.

Being eternally curious, I went straight to Google when I finished the book. I was interested to know about what the family was doing six years later. I like to think that I am not easily shocked but what I found on Google was nothing like the image I had conjured in my head after reading the book. It proved to me that fact can be stranger than fiction and that we can’t believe everything that we read. I’m sure that Dave Eggers probably feels a bit duped too, since the Zeitoun’s portrayed themselves as the perfect couple.

As a writer and a reader, this raised so many questions in my head and reminded me that memory is a movable beast and can look different from every angle. Sometimes it’s what we leave out that distorts the truth.

Sometimes there is more truth in fiction than real stories.

Funding Your Art

1622117_10203588843912759_2232670102899058624_nIf you’ve been living under a rock, you won’t know about the cuts to Arts funding in the latest budget. If you aren’t making art, then maybe you don’t care. But you should because even if you aren’t making art, you are enjoying it. All art forms are important for the soul of this beautiful country.

My writer brain doesn’t need too much help with the mathematics of the latest cuts and what they will mean for writers, artists and performers. Not only will it mean that many of the usual grants will not be offered (bad for the artist), it means that the community won’t have the pleasure of seeing new projects come to life (bad for you).

Take a look at the latest cuts to Australia Council grants:


If artists can’t fund their projects, how will they grow and improve on their craft? Imagine the books, paintings, performances that might never see the light of day. We need to realise how important this is for the future of our society in cultural terms.

You might think, So what?

Why is art so important? We need cures for cancer, world poverty and global warming. Yes, we do. But artists tell stories and stories help us to make sense of the world, help us broaden our experience and understanding and allow us to think more creatively, which in turn helps us to discover solutions to problems that need this creative thinking.

The biographer and journalist, Walter Isaacson, said that science can give us empirical facts and try to tie them together with theories, but it’s the humanists and the artists who turn them into narratives with moral, emotional and spiritual meanings: art gives meaning to the theories of science.

Art is also escapism, pleasure and connection with each other.

So what can we do about it? Politics has a lot to do with it, so don’t vote for the wrong people. But it’s also about the community supporting the arts in different ways: buy books (real ones), go to galleries and buy artwork, go to the movies (don’t buy pirate movies in Bali), go to a live theatre performance.

Crowd funding is becoming a fantastic way for people to get their project off the ground. Maybe this is the arts funding of the future?

The community needs to be aware of the importance of making art for the future of our cultural existence. Without it we are dull, non-dimensional beings. We might cure cancer but our world will be colourless.

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