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Truth and Other Lies (the Lessons I Learned in Washington)

Another story in the Times yesterday! An alleged crack addict writes a book and suddenly we are all interested in the Truth again. Ahhhh, there is nothing like depravation to increase appreciation.

Before I was a blogger or a writer, I was a journalist. Which uniquely qualifies me to run a smallish African nation and also to understand the difference between journalism and writing. One is the pursuit of facts, the other, the pursuit of truth. (Of course, there will always be wackjobs uninterested in either). What distorts everything in life is not understanding the difference. Journalism, at its best, wades through the truth to get at the facts. Writing, at its worst, ignores both.

I worked at ABC News for 15 years (see pp. 61-88; 99-101; 137-140 in my memoir). When I started writing, it was clear to me I was not reporting a story, I was simply telling one. I understand that applying words to memories distorts them. And even with the best of intentions, in recalling the past, we are altering it. But the underlying facts of those stories must be beyond doubt...

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it.... You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection — unless you lie — in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

— Harold Pintor, Nobel Prize for Literature 2005

Hmmm... Lies... it got me thinking...

The State of My Novel

...about the President's State of the Union address next week and his buggering of ordinary Americans???which then got me thinking about the state of my love life, and whether I should TIVO my favorite show and go out tonight; or not.

Writing is a little like dating. And my novel, well, our relationship is in a precarious place. That 3 months mark where you either decide to part ways or take it to the next level. It's complicated....

I met my novel two years ago at Clancy's down on Roy Street. He was smart and handsome and charming, someone I thought I might really like if we spent any time together. We sat at the bar drinking, laughing, flirting. It was well past midnight when I said, "I should be going." I offered to pay for my drinks but my novel would have none of it, snapping up the check with a flourish, leaving me flush with clever anecdotes, the promise of more???

But then my novel didn't call.

Not only that, I saw my novel out with Chick-Lit, her pouty, painted lips where mine had been just weeks before. I thought we had something special — all those powerful verbs and hidden subtext, lyrical metaphors and longing em-dashes — but maybe I was wrong. Maybe I wasn't meant to get involved with a novel. I put him out of my mind and took up with a memoir.

(...Writing is easy!!! Wheeeeee!)

I dated the memoir for 2 years but we broke up recently after I walked into Powell's and he was nowhere to be found. I was told he was in the Quimby warehouse. The Quimby Warehouse??? At that point we decided it would be best to see other books. (Truthfully, I thought he was a bit full of himself anyway, always talking about his mom and his career and his past relationships and blah, blah, blah.)

Then my novel called out of the blue. My heart leapt because even while I was with my memoir I'd been thinking about my novel the whole time! Now we've been seeing each other off and on, neither of us sure how to proceed. Recently, I caught him having dinner with a Cookbook, but he swears it was just research. I want to believe him. I don't want to make the same mistake this time. I stay home and wait.

Then last night he arrived with a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir. We polished it off and were feeling amorous, giddy, toying with commitment. There was a moment, an explosion of sorts. A brief instant of clarity that bound us — he completes me! One perfect paragraph and just like that, everything changes. My novel and I entered a whole new phase. We lolled in bed, smoking unfiltered Camels for future image-conscious publishers to airbrush out.

I'll forever love my memoir, in that way one always loves their "first." But it's my novel now that has engaged my imagination, and fueled my passion.


Read this, did I already tell you that? Four men and their issues. Four local guys, actually — maybe one lives next to you!

I am a Sellout

(The answer to yesterday's quiz: "What is the anagram for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito?"...just sayin'... oh, and look at Mark Iocolano's work in Comments. Very clever.)

"Uncle Johnny and Tammy were doomed from the start. After years of dating and infidelity and boozy shouting matches on the dock, there was nothing left for them to do but get married."
— Carole Radziwill, What Remains

Books mentioned in this post

  1. What Remains: A Memoir of Fate...
    Used Hardcover $4.50
  2. Lipstick Jungle
    Used Hardcover $5.95
  3. Office Politics: Blue and Red... New Trade Paper $25.50
  4. What Remains: A Memoir of Fate...
    Used Hardcover $4.50

Carole Radziwill is the author of What Remains: A Memoir of Fate Friendship

4 Responses to "Truth and Other Lies (the Lessons I Learned in Washington)"

    Mikki Spiegel Machado January 25th, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Great book!!!It was so awesome to see my name in there between Joey Tiso and skateboarding. What did ever happen to Paul Merrik???We really had some crazy times!!!I was surprised you never mentioned the infamous Friendship club otherwise known as the shed behind the Rosenfelds house. Would love to hear from you! Hope you write another book soon.

    Anthony and Gianna January 25th, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    Dear Aunt Carole,
    i love you we will miss you when you go to new york city from, Anthony to ,Aunt Carole.

    dear aunt carole, well miss you when you when you go back to new york city. be happy in new york. love, gianna.

    Kim April 1st, 2006 at 5:26 am


    Where do I start? Your memoir was one of the best I have ever read and only the second book that made me cry (many times I might add). Your writing style is phenomenal; I put it right up there next to Joyce Carole Oates and Anita Shreve (who as novelists have an effortless way of carrying the reader through the lives and emotions of others).

    I read mostly in the mornings while on the elliptical at the Y. You were my motivation for the last couple of weeks to stick to my exercise regime -- I couldn't wait to get back to your story! I have to admit that when I read your story's premise, I wasn't totally drawn in. How bad could it be when you have the financial and emotional backing of families like the Radziwills and Kennedys for support? I was wrong. No amount of money, power, celebrity can make dealing with life and loss any easier. You let others into your intimate circle and put a "face" to John, Carolyn and Anthony.

    I applaud you for your strength, will and bravery -- not just because of what you lived through but because you had the courage to revisit and share those memories. I had a "story" to tell (certainly not of your merit), and I toyed with the idea of recording my memories. I didn't do it. It was too painful, and now I have lost many of those memories and the details that made them so real (and unbelievable!). I have read your interviews and know that you recognized that memories can fade and you acted on that. I only wish I had.

    Thank your for a wonderful book! I am anxiously awaiting your next, a novel.


    Robyn Stevens May 25th, 2006 at 7:26 am


    A book I will never ever forget.... It may be stop and think about every situation she was describing. As a Brooklyn gal who resides on the UES of NYC I so relate to her background.....I loved the line about having Italian food every Christmas in large aluminium trays.. WOWWOW WHat memories that brings back......SHe worked for Caldor and my first job was in the shoe department of Alexanders by Kings Plaza.......I go to the same Dr. at Columbia Pres for my blood illness and boy did she have him pegged!!!! Stiff white lab go Carole!!!!! For anyone who has ever loved someone deeply and lost them (does not have be a husband) they must buy this book....... I will always think about Carole and hope she holds onto all of those memories that no one can ever take away......WHo knows maybe one day I will run into her at Lobels whenI am buying my steaks!!!! Robyn

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