I’m going to tell a story on myself in the hope of making a point. Last week I went to pick up a new pair of glasses. Twice I went back to the store to have the frames adjusted. On each occasion, I was assisted by the same clerk. Neither adjustment worked. When the young man appeared on my third visit, I had to be honest and say I needed a fresh perspective.
He pointed to “Janet,” the young woman standing beside him and didn’t seem offended. Happily, Janet honed in on the problem and fixed it. As I left the store, I advised the young man to use Janet if he ever bought a pair of glasses. The three of us laughed.
A simple story with no embellishment. Later, when I sat down to coffee with a friend, however, I made my own adjustment, putting my words in the mouth the young man. “’If I ever need glasses,’” he said to me, “’I’ll let Janet do the fitting.’”
Surprised by my white lie, I gave the matter thought once I was alone. Eventually, I decided I’d changed the story to allow the young man to laugh at himself rather than be the butt of a joke. My brain had preferred the kinder, gentler humor and I realized it wasn’t the first time I’d varnished the truth with an eye to entertainment.
Leslie Blum, writing about Ernest Hemingway, revealed his long time secretary had admitted the author often engaged in similar vanishings. “Hemingway could tinker with the facts; it was all about telling a story.” (“Papa’s Protégé,” by Lesley M. M. Blume, Town&Country, February, 2016, pg. 144.)
A writer needs a keen eye to observe life. But, there’s also a passion to make an “adjustment” for greatest impact. That, too, is part of the artist’s craft and may be why Plato banished these dreamers from his Republic. Simply put, the artist can’t be trusted.