Why do people keep sticking their hands into wild animals’ cages at the zoo? Why do politicians keep cheating on their wives and think they’ll never get caught? And why do seemingly intelligent writers keep falsifying information and trying to pass it off as fact?
In February, I posted some thoughts on the latter issue. Now comes another instance: Henry Holt and Company has declined to publish a disputed book by James Pellegrino on the atomic bombing of Japan. Mr. Pellegrino has allegedly been unable to answer the publisher’s concerns about the veracity of certain information and the reliability and even the existence of certain sources.
I don’t get it. On the one hand, isn’t the bombing of Japan an incident of such historical and emotional significance that the truth needs no assistance? On the other hand, why not write your story as a novel if you enjoy making things up?
But then, if politicians remained faithful and people kept their fingers out of lions’ cages, we novelists would be deprived of stunning examples of real-life idiocy on which to base believable fictional characters.