Where the novelist has to start from scratch and endure the terrible labor of constructing a world, the nonfiction writer gets his world ready-made. Although it is a world by no means as coherent as the world of fiction, and is peopled by characters by no means as lifelike as the characters in fiction, the reader accepts it without complaint; he feels compensated for the inferiority of his reading experience by what he regards as the edifying character of the genre: a work about something that is true, about events that really occurred and people who actually lived or live, is valued simply for being that, and is read in a more lenient spirit than a work of imaginative literature, from which we expect a more intense experience. The reader extends a kind of credit to the writer of nonfiction which he doesn’t extend to the writer of fiction, and for this reason the writer of nonfiction has to be punctilious about delivering the goods for which the reader has prepaid with his forbearance. Of course, there is no such thing as a work of pure factuality, any more than there is one of pure fictitiousness. As every work of fiction draws on life, so every work of nonfiction draws on art. As the novelist must curb his imagination in order to keep his text grounded in the common experience of man (dreams exemplify the uncurbed imagination—thus their uninterestingness to everyone but their author), so the journalist must temper his literal-mindedness with the narrative devices of imaginative literature.1. That's one of my favorite books, which I was just rereading last night and which I just bought on Kindle instead of typing out the last sentence.
2. One copies a larger chunk when it's not a matter of typing out each word!
3. I used the phrase "someone else's dream" in the post title because there's a song I like with that title. It's not this Faith Hill song, which I'm noticing for the first time because I'm Googling looking for the one I like, which is this. You have to get to the second page of search results to find the one I was looking for, and there's even another song with that title — by Laurie Anderson — before you get to the Youth Group one. These are 3 completely different songs, and the phrase is used to mean 3 distinctly different things:
A. She was daddy's little girl/Momma's little angel/Teacher's pet, pageant queen/She said "All my life I've been pleasin' everyone but me/Waking up in someone else's dream..."4. If other people's dreams are uninteresting (because they contain too much fiction) and if it's bad to find yourself in someone else's dream, why is "dream" such a buzzword in American culture today? In the field of politics, we're played by characters who talk about dreams. The President of the United States introduced himself to us as a man composed of someone else's dreams.
B. You know those nights/when you're sleeping, and it's totally dark/and absolutely silent, and you don't dream/and there's only blackness/and this is the reason/it's because on those nights you've gone away/On those nights you're in someone else's dream....
C. Let's all go to the holy soul/to that soulless hole where the restless people go/To shout, oh you never got out/Don't you hate it when they just say hi?/They don't see the sadness in your eyes /Oh yeah, let's dream it down/You're having someone else's dream...
5. A stock message to schoolchildren is that they must have dreams and that their dreams not only can come true but actually will come true. That seems designed to counteract what we presume they are thinking: Nothing big will ever happen to me. We seem to assume hopelessness and rush to dispel it. But why do we think that assertions about dreams would accomplish such a feat?