I’ve been preoccupied with duality of late, particularly that of reality versus illusion and what has seemed to me to be a rapid blending of the two. Recently my son started a thread on Facebook about the glitch in The Matrix, a thread that I can barely understand, except that it proves that our DNA and wavelengths are sufficiently entwined so as to transcend the 5585 miles between us.
I went to bed with all this on my mind and when I awoke this morning, the line, “Qui peut dire le faux et le réel?” (“Who can tell illusion from reality?”) from Dan Fogelberg’s “Dancing Shoes” was in my head, reminding me that questions about the blending of reality and illusion are not new, not even to me. I realized it has been years since listening to the album Nether Lands was part of my Sunday ritual.
I dug out one of the three copies I have ( I don’t know why I have three copies. Have I ever claimed to make sense? No, I have not.) and remembered again how fascinated I always was with the dualities that permeate everything from the album art — the dark and light of the chiaroscuro cover photograph – reflected in the self-portrait on the inside cover, the references to night and day, sun and moon, darkness and light, winter and summer, earth and sky, and most of all to reality and illusion.
Some of the reality versus illusion imagery is evoked even in song titles, “Nether Lands” (not Netherlands, but instead an in-between place that is not real and is not a dream); “Once Upon A Time” (the classic fairy tale opening); “Scarecrow’s Dream” (Scarecrows aren’t real; neither are dreams; the song is dedicated to Don Quixote (the dreamer), Walt Disney, and the Wizard of Oz); “Sketches” (depictions of actual things and people); and “False Faces.”
There are frequent lyrical references to confusion, being lost “between the worlds of men and make-believe,” to not knowing “what is real and what’s illusion,” with “pleasure . . . a thin disguise,” to being “certain of nothing,” not to mention plenty of references to faces reflected in water, including streams which appear to be frozen that “thirst for the thaw but they’re running still.” (I love that conceit.)
If you’re a fan of The Eagles and you don’t know Nether Lands, it features appearances by Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and John David (JD) Souther, and the liner notes also thank Irv Azoff, who(m) you might remember from the recent “History of The Eagles.” Azoff and Fogelberg started out together, striking out from Peoria and heading to California, where the rest is, well, the history of The Eagles.
If you’re an Elvis fan or a Jimmy Buffett fan or just a music fan, Norb Putnam is also featured. When I went looking for a link, I saw that he has an autobiography either pending or recently published. In December, Oxford American Magazine featured an excerpt about his relationship with Elvis, which you can read by clicking here.
All that got me to thinking . . .
The lyric from “Dancing Shoes” first came to mind during a long walk in the snow where my thoughts meandered to the hypothetical idea of a fictional “flog.”
A flog (the blending of “fake” and “blog,” which in turn is a blending of “web” and “log,” which just underscores my notion that blending is all the rage), also known as a “flack blog,” is defined as “. . . an electronic communication form that appears to originate from a credible, non-biased source, but which in fact is created by a company or organization for the purpose of marketing a product, service, or political viewpoint. The purpose of a fake blog is to inspire viral marketing or create an internet meme that generates traffic and interest in a product, much the same as astroturfing (a “fake grassroots” campaign),” (Wikipedia).
Flogs are considered by the public relations status quo to be less than ethical means of promoting products or services, but what if your product is a novel or your service is fiction writing?
It has been said, and I agree, that all memoir is fiction. Every personal blog is the telling of a person’s life story as she or he experienced it.
Sometimes I come across a blog that has a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” interactive feel to it, where the blogger feels like a main character and the commenters seem unwittingly to suggest the next course of action. The blogs are well-written, so much so that they could be the work of a professional writer. Some storylines are so dramatic and entertaining it’s as if the blogger is a protagonist ripped from the cover of a romance novel or from the screen of a Lifetime movie event.
It’s just a thought. That happens when I walk.
Most memoir writers — which by extension can include personal bloggers — embellish or to some degree reconstruct or reconfigure reality in telling their stories.
But what if, in this boundary-pushing age, there were writers who created blog characters from pure fiction based very little on reality — or perhaps on a composite reality gleaned from the stories told by the personal bloggers in their following. What if the blog itself were really more a novel-in-progress?
This led to my wondering how folks would feel if they found out a really fantastic blogger was in fact a fictional creation.
What if, say six months or a year into following someone’s wildly entertaining stories, a writer stepped forward to say that you’d been reading the narrative of the protagonist to his or her new novel, thanked you for helping guide the plot, and invited you to buy the final work to see how it ends?
Would there be a sense of betrayal? Would you applaud the performance art? Would you feel honored to be part of some sort of pre-fan fiction experience?
Would it make a difference if the blogger/character endured life challenges similar to your own and the plot details were drawn from your experience?
Would it make a difference if, instead of a commercial endeavor, the flog were an academic project for a sociology class? For a creative writing class? For a marketing class?
Would the time that you’d followed the blog before the revelation make a difference?
Would the contrast between the blogger/character’s identity and the writer’s identity make a difference. That is to say, might your reaction to the revelation be different if you were following a young, vibrant heroine who turned out to be the fictional creation of a young, vibrant female author versus finding out she was the fictional creation of David Shields (who advocates for blurring the lines and pushing the boundaries and co-author of the recent biography with “new revelations” about J.D. Salinger, the recluse who craved privacy) or James Frey (notable for having written a memoir that wasn’t entirely fact-based, duping Oprah Winfrey) ?
Would the experience change your own writing or your approach to blogging? Your interaction with other bloggers?
If you are a fiction writer or an aspiring one, would you yourself consider creating a fictional blog for one of your characters?
As with many questions I ponder while walking, I don’t know what my own answers to these questions would be. Certainly, the comments section is space-limited for sharing your answers to all of them. If you’re interested in writing a related post, feel free to post a link here.
Meantime, I have more walking to do and perhaps a marathon viewing of The Matrix before calling my son.