Monday, 29 October 2012


As I usually do, lately I am thinking a lot about the differences between fiction and non-fiction, or journalism, in writing.

I watched Chicken Ranch, the first documentary Nick Broomfield made when he got out of film school, on Saturday. He discovered the Chicken Ranch, which is a legal brothel operating outside of Las Vegas, through an amateur pilot friend who read about the ranch in a plane magazine, because the ranch has a plane that flies in clients. 

The documentary made me think about my need and desire to open my eyes to things going on around me and things going on, even if not so much around me: to read the paper, listen to the news, and know what’s happening. It’s strange because I developed a very strong idea about news media outlets after working for the paper this summer: I was very skeptical leaving once I saw the way news is manufactured, I guess you could say. I left thinking news was not in line with the truth, or that is was merely some version of it.

And then the editor of that paper, Paul Samyn, came in to the school I go to and did a presentation about the paper and the media in general to first year CreComm students. I managed to sneak in for the last few minutes of it, where Samyn described the paper itself, and the media in general, as a tool people can use to understand the world. So maybe I had it all wrong, then. Maybe the paper is only the beginning for a curious reader: it will give you the story, as honest and straightforward as possible (at least that is how it should be) and then if you want, you can go and find out more about what you’re reading about on your own time. I find comfort in understanding the paper that way, though: as a way of understanding all kinds of occurrences. And that is what I want to do for others: help them understand certain rules and laws and situations and people, whether it be through journalism, documentary filmmaking, or general motion picture.

And then something else happened that made me notice something entirely different and unrelated about fact and fiction. I went to one of my favorite places on planet eart as I know it: Chapters. I spent the whole day there in the fiction and literature section, and after selecting Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, I went down to the Young Adult section. I went straight to the Judy Blume books. She is one of my favorite authors, and I’d say most young girls have read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, or at least most “half-Jewish” girls like me. Anyway, I picked up a copy of Blubber, which I’ve read already but do not own, and started to read it again.

And I am in love because automatically I was brought into the fifth grade class of Jill Brenner and I felt sad for Linda Fishcher who Jill and her friends call Blubber and I understood Jill’s mother as she huddled in the corner of the family bathroom and smoked a cigarette after she had quit and I was no longer in Chapters or in Winnipeg or in my own life.

And then I went home and a girlfriend of mine picked me up. After we went out for dinner and we were driving home in the dark, we stopped in front of the seedy hotel where the former subject of a documentary I was shooting lived. The same one who left me messages that kept me up at night and the same one who had me worried he was going to fuck me up the way he fucked some guy up in jail. Anyway, I saw him as my girlfriend and I drove by. I saw him standing outside the hotel, now rooming house, in the dark, and I remembered there are scary things and people in the world. And then I remembered that unlike in fiction, where the author creates worlds and lives in them while writing, and others live in while reading, journalists do not get to choose the story. They have to remember bad things happen. And that scares me and makes me want to live in fiction forever. 

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