(Non-)Fiction

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It seems an author who wrote a book about the bombing of Hiroshima in WW2 has gotten himself in a bit of trouble. As a work of non-fiction, there are certain doubts as to facts presented in The Last Train from Hiroshima (namely the questionable existence of two men that appear in the book).

It’s one thing to have a source falsely attest to being present during certain events that occurred in the past; it’s quite another when the authenticity of the author of the book, Charles Pellegrino, is brought into question. Apparently, he claims to have received a Ph.D from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), but the institution itself claims there is no proof of this.

This is the sort of controversy that reflects poorly, not only on Pellegrino, but other non-fiction writers as well. If something as straight forward as whether or not a university education has been attained is questionable, then one may begin to assume the contents of the book are likewise uncertain. This of course depends very much on whether Pellegrino intended to falsify his writing and, which seems more suspicious, concoct a fictional background for himself as an intellectual. In recent years this sort of thing has come into the spotlight (remember James Frey?) and many readers have taken offense to it. I would argue they are in the right: if an author or publisher is pitching a book as a work of non-fiction then the reader should be able to rely on the work being as advertised. No one enjoys being lied to.

Though it is outside my own writing interests, I hope this sort of occurence does not harm the non-fiction genre as a whole. We are living in a time when people are more critical of what they read or at least of the varied sources of information presented. Readers are the ones purchasing and giving their time and interest to a book, and authors should have some level of respect for them.

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