ambiguity in fiction

i’ve just read an interview of Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, in which he discusses three qualities of exciting short stories, or the stories he’ll publish in the magazine:

  1. a voice, a narrator with urgency
  2. a narrator who tries to persuade you he/she is telling the truth
  3. wisdom, a kind of moral authority, or an attempt to settle a troubled conscience

Stein uses ‘Car Crash While Hitchkiking’ by Denis Johnson (AKA God of the short story) as an example, unpacking these qualities. it’s informative. then he discusses how stories must have a moment where there’s truth, that there’s something real to hang onto, behind the mask of fiction.

here’s a quote:

I think there’s a kind of realism–not just in stories, but in poems and essays–that assumes we live in dishonesty, that we lie to others and ourselves as a matter of survival, but that part of us knows the truth when we see it. That’s what interests me: the truths we can’t tell except when put on the mantle of this authority.

this fits for me, it really does.

what are you lying about?

ps here’s the link: