Sunday, February 15, 2009

The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense

There was an amusing aphorism about truth and fiction in the new movie The International (with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.) I may not have the exact wording, but it is roughly:

The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.

(Or maybe it was "There is a difference between truth and fiction -- fiction has to make sense.")

That sounded like it was probably a noteworthy quote from somebody, so I did a Google search. Mark Twain's name popped up a few times with various wordings. I did another search using his name and found these two quotes on, so they are probably the definitive quotes:

It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.

Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.

A similar quote is attributed to Rosten, Leo:

Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to make sense.

And a similar quote is attributed to Tom Clancy:

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.

My suspicion is that the film used Clancy's version. If I ever meet Clancy, I'll ask if he "borrowed" from Twain's adage.

Finally, Alex Lane asserts that Twain's adage is "roundly refuted" by the popularity of The X-Files.

So, can we use the fact that a proposition "makes sense" as a criteria for judging truth or lie, fact or fiction? If not, what good is it for us to obsess over whether anything "makes sense"?

-- Jack Krupansky


At 2:15 AM , Anonymous gerd said...

Heh, I'm watching The International this moment and I did exactly the same -- googled the line to see if it was a quote. My first hit was your blog, so thanks for info. ;)

At 12:24 AM , Blogger sfirsov said...

Haha +1

At 10:11 AM , Anonymous Jack said...

Did the same thing... Googled the quote, found your blog. Thanks. Good info :)

Actual quote is "Where is the difference between truth and fiction? Fiction is to make sense."

At 12:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the same for me.

At 10:02 PM , Blogger Rocky Mountain Writer said...

Mark Twain said it first, and ever since subtle variances have been created, only to be changed and used again and again.

At 9:00 PM , Anonymous Lisa said...

and me :) i love when these things happen. we live in a big world; yet again so small.

At 7:42 AM , Blogger JerJer said...

I watched "The International" also. I couldn't get home to the computer fast enough to google the quote. Well, you see where I also ended up.

At 1:51 AM , Blogger anonymous said...

Good stuff. Googled it also. Thx for the info.

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