Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Year of Meats - Fact to Fiction

A few years back, I read a book titled My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. It is about a Japanese-American who has to make a film for a Japanese food production company about the wholesome values of meat. When the protagonist, Jane Takagi-Little, comes to make her series My American Wife the strange odyssey takes some great twist. Funny, sincere and sometimes disturbing, this book covers themes in gender, American image making, family values and of course the horrors of the meat industry.

For all you avid readers out there, my question is why did she write a fictional book about such a controversial topic? Ozeki did have experience as a film maker and could have easily written this into a personal essay, an expose, or a series of investigative reports. However, she wrote it as fiction. My question to writers and to readers is not why specifically did Ozeki write this book as fiction, but what advantages and disadvantages does a writer have in writing something so controversial as fiction rather than non-fiction? How does it change the scope of the work? Does it take away from the value of the information or its importance to public knowledge?

I enjoyed this book and its construction. It was funny and had some good twists and turns. It is a good example of a typical nonfiction book, that turned to fiction. Did it loose any truth or importance in that transformation? What other books do this? Shadows of reality reflect back in our craft, who decides what angle to hold that mirror?

Ron Samul -(I know - it sounds like a an assignment, but I'm trying to stir the pot - I'm sick of looking at the 9/11 post.)

1 comment:

Don Stitt said...

Well, being at a distinct disadvantage, in that I haven't read the work in question, let me respond regarding a part of the question I think I do understand.
Yes, the scope of fiction is vastly wider than the scope of non-fiction, or at least documentary or diarist-style non-fiction.
Consider Capote's "In Cold Blood," back in the news now because of the biopic. He chose to write a non-fiction novel. In fact, he sort of created the genre. Why? Because facts, by themselves, are sort of cold and lifeless. Breathing life into them by way of imagination makes them less sterile and unquestionable. The author you ask about probably felt that representing her experience with a non-fiction treatment was limiting artistically, and her opinions would be cast in doubt because she hadn't pursued the subject in a strictly academic analysis.