We forgive sleight-of-hand in books as in cinema, but can we forgive Truman Capote for insisting In Cold Blood was factual?
Perhaps that's why we have a profound, unconscious need to know what genre we're in. Is it a work of the imagination, or cold, hard fact? Never mind that some imaginations are deadly dull, or that some facts can be edge-of-the-seat thrilling, we like to know, as readers and as audiences, what the terms of trade are.
At the same time, as listeners or witnesses to heroic acts of storytelling, we can be quite forgiving. We know, for instance, that some passages of the historical record are steeped in obscurity, and also that fiction is make-believe. Perhaps all we require from a story, fact or fiction, is a fundamental authenticity, an honesty of intent and execution.
McCrum's full piece