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To The Best Of Our Knowledge
July 20, 2019
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Boiling Down To The Bare Truth

Moby Dick

We find ourselves at a moment when it feels like the lines between truth and lies just seem to be getting harder and harder to see. And if you ask the person doing the telling, they'll always point at someone else as the liar. Half-truth, fact-check, lie, fact-check, wash, rinse, repeat.

It wasn’t just the election of one person, or the efforts of a "biased" media — in 2019, it seems like the tools we use to discern between truth and lies have been used so little they have become rusty. Instead we gravitate toward the convenient truths and ignore the pesky ones. And as a result, we have become vulnerable to lies.

What do we do with our current crisis of truth?

Terese Mailhot, a member of the Seabird Island Band in British Columbia says consider rendering — thinking of getting to the truth as the same process you might use to reduce blubber down to whale oil.

Mailhot's powerful memoir “Heart Berries” started as a long novel that was turned into a slim memoir through rounds of edits after edits after edits. This "rendering" got her words to the heart of the matter: from small "t" truth to the essential and important big "T" truths.

This seems an important consideration for us today — that getting to the Truth is a process. A tough one, but one that leaves us better for it.


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When It's Real, The Stakes Are Higher

Terese Marie Mailhot's brave and beautiful memoir about life on a Pacific Northwest reservation is making waves. She originally intended to tell her story as fiction, but ultimately made the difficult decision to write the whole, painful truth.
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Little Lie in the Big Woods

Laura Ingalls Wilder insisted that every detail in her beloved "Little House" books was true. But Caroline Fraser, her biographer, says Wilder heavily edited the story of her family's life on the Great Plains. And in the process, created an American myth based on a lie or two.
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Margaret Atwood on 'Wide Sargasso Sea'

Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys takes up a "mad" wife’s story in “Wide Sargasso Sea,” an overlooked novel recommended by “Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood.
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Bill T. Jones On 'Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees'

Choreogapher Bill T. Jones recommends Lawrence Weschler's biography of Robert Irwin, an artist who spent his career attempting to capture the subjectivity of the act of experiencing the world around us.
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Emily Parker on 'Conversation in the Cathedral'

"Conversation in the Cathedral."
Diplomat and writer Emily Parker say by Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa uses fiction to uniquely depict what it actually looks like living day-to-day under a authoritarian regime.
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Junot Diaz on 'Dark Reflections'

Junot Diaz recommends Samuel R. Delany's reverse-chronology novel that captures the tragic story of a closeted poet who struggles to reckon with his desires.
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Orhan Pamuk on 'Anna Karenina'

Anna Karenina
The Turkish writer and Nobel laureate says his favorite novel — the 800-plus-page Russian novel bursting with characters living the life of imperial Russian society — is a complex miracle of a book.
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A Podcast For Readers Struggling with The 'Virtuosic Masterpiece' of the 'Great American Hype Machine

David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece — Infinite Jest — is famously difficult to read. Colleen Leahy and Makini Allwood are climbing the literary mountain of a book, and sharing their experience on a podcast called "And But So."
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