Wednesday, May 9, 2012
May 7, 2012 Issue
Do you know if Mantel has manufactured or borrowed from the record this information about the fashionable Fugger bag? In some sense, it doesn’t matter, because the writer has made a third category of reality, the plausibly hypothetical. It’s what Aristotle claimed was the difference between the historian and the poet: the former describes what happened, and the latter what might happen.
I’m not convinced. The “plausibly hypothetical” isn’t reality. Reality is, as John Updike brilliantly defined it, “a fabric of microscopic accuracies” (“Accuracy,” included in Updike’s 1976 collection Picked-Up Pieces). The “coroners of the human case” are writers who eschew accuracy in favor of fabrication.