Honesty

As author I praise value of writer’s honesty. As Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his autobiography: “The heart’s earnest and pure desire is always fulfilled”, so sincere author, has chances to reach heights of mastery. After rambling through books in next Vienna bookstore, I would descend in metro, and vibration of train and feeling of running forward would pacify and bring me in thoughts far beyond of my destination. Previous experienced passenger of Moscow and St-Petersburg underground, now whenever I find myself squeezed between unknown people in underground rush hour, my mind starts traveling in time and space. If to look long enough at dim silhouettes of passengers reflected in dark window, and lights of tunnel splashing  through, is easy to accept suggestion that time does not exists, countries, epochs, generations, yesterday and tomorrow – all is mixed up and goes on at the same time, emerging and passing away as segments in gigantic kaleidoscope. In this common transitory impermanence the only anchor that persists is my awareness of reality. Perhaps this fragile fleeting transit between me and higher source of the world, not perceivable by senses and not knowable by mind, is the only space where search for ultimate truth gives promise to be rewarded? So highest degrees of ultimate truth can not be ascribed to transitory of particular time and particular people. Truth that is true only for certain group is sort of interpretation.

By other words, if author orientates at approval of certain group, his statements are short-lived.I went so far to express only one thought, that definitive search for approval of reading audience, expressed in quantity of books sold, affects artistic and conception value of manuscript. I mean to be maximal honest in what one writes about, one must be guided by relation with primary source, but not by approval of others.
Thinking back, I see myself as zealous person of irrepressible character. When I was a child, mother had hard times controlling some of my gourmet craze, so as if I fell for pickles, I consumed them till being sick. In some spheres of my adult life now I experience similar uncontrollable infatuations. Once I start reading interesting book, I can not stop, unless being disappointed.

Thus yesterday I came across book “ How Starbucks saved my life” in Thalia book shop, and spent my New Year eve reading it, dismissing invitations from friends to meet. My reading was accompanied by loud sounds of rockets and fireworks, behind window, launched till morning by enthusiastic teenagers.
Author Michael Gill (book was published in US by Gotham Books, 2007 and reprinted by Harper Collins Publishes, 2008) wrote “candid and moving memoir” of high rate businessman, who suddenly lost everything and went working to Starbucks as simple cleaner and bartender (Starbucks is worldwide American company selling and serving coffee, one such café you can see at the corner of Neubaugasse and Mariahilferstrasse), and where according to his confessions he found real happiness, professional satisfaction and sense of life. From the first glance, I was really moved by Gill’s descriptions of how he was fired from his high-rate position and found himself without savings, income, insurance and with brain-tumor diagnosis in New-York street in age of 63 and how he wept at railway station taking train to his new working place, where he was to clean toilets for 10 bucks per hour. I was moved by sincerity and descriptiveness of certain scenes, which belong to the best part of his memoir, and which probably reflect real chronic of his life. But the longer I read, the more indignant I grew, till eventually I saw in book nothing more than brochure called to play certain role in author’s business deals, and regretted about wasted time. I reached the last page with feeling of boredom and pain, struggling through lists of kinds of coffee one can buy in Starbucks and dithyrambs how good this company is. What a shameless  advertising under mask of inspirational memoir book! The first thought that comes to mind was: How much they paid you, scribbler?

The saddest thing here is that if author would not compromise truth in his wish to make good business deal, and stayed sincere and honest till the end, his memoir could be really worthy to read – with its meaningfulness and translucent, matter-of-fact style.
Problem with publishing business is that they see all in terms of sale. Any goodies must be sold and bring profit. Consumerism dictatorship puts author under pressure, so that exterior and interior of his writings transforms to become product and suit one goal – to be sold and extract as much money from buyers pockets as possible.
In this rat race, primary educational, inspirational, spiritual and artistic purpose of a book becomes more and more shadowed. Book is bought to spent leisure time, to entertain, to make gift or add to decoration of the flat. Many books, especially by best-selling authors, have disproportional and irregular structure: rich, promising beginning, irrelevant development and disappointing end. This fatal defect of the book you can not discover only reading it. The quality of end does not play any role, as long as book was already sold to you. Books are like sweets in colorful wrappers, which promise much, but when eaten expose poor, hastily piled content. The crime against truth of life can take many innocent forms. Often authors can include invented passages in material of their non-fiction book, making narration more alive and attractive. Raw reality lacks obvious harmony and often looks bizarre, and it certainly not amusing. Combining fiction and non-fiction, author rewrites his own agreement with reality, trying to correct universal order of things.
Talking about factual truth and invented falsehood in non-fiction, I come back to my concept of truth as wholesomeness and purity. If you have goal to get profit, you will certainly get it. But hardly anything more.

From the other hand, I can understand very well aspirations of unknown authors (as me) to be published and paid, because work demands steel discipline and huge energy and time investments.
At one side of swings sits obese child, symbolizing publishing houses overload with manuscripts and active production of literature with salable content or production on expense of author, who has more money, than ideas, and at the other side of swings, lifted up to the sky, sits frightened dystrophic unknown author, may be even talented, exhausted by years of hard work, which nobody needs.
I already wrote, that word as symbol has specific mysterious strength. But it obtains this strength only being issued with consideration, from pure source. There is non-fiction. And there is fiction of non-fiction – salable books imitating true and touching life stories. Truth reveals its colossal strength only if author really meant it, and sincerely articulated wishes change something in this universe, being sold or not. The changes that true word makes in the world are not promptly visible. Fakes can be sold, but they don’t nurture us. They are like artificial plants – cold, bright and perfect, arrogantly erecting themselves over imperfections of modest field flowers, covered by dust, asymmetrical and  blemished, but genuine!

Honest book immediately obtains qualities of immortality, though perhaps never gets profit. No doubt, that many readers have taste and intuition, and all falsehood interventions are transparent for them, because any correction in natural flow of events and also in raw data, destroys the wholeness of primary material, which contains harmony and wholeness in every of its cells. But readers, even most advanced of them, often want only one thing – to be entertained.
Still non-fiction has its own fans. Persons who claim themselves to be non-fiction authors, arouse special interest, as those who give readers chance to perceive reality in raw form, minimally transformed by individual interpretation, sweet possibility to judge and to issue interpretation of their own. Of course, complete truth is unreachable.What, after all, truth is if not genuine, but subjective seeing of things? Perhaps we can never reach ultimate truth, but we may try to approach it, as we always try to approach our ideals in love and art.

Galina Toktalieva

Kyrgyzstan-born author residing in Graz, Austria

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