Does this book prove real-life is stranger than fiction?

Use this forum to discuss the May 2018 Book of the Month, "The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid" by Gary Robinson
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Sptlightstar
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Does this book prove real-life is stranger than fiction?

Post by Sptlightstar » 10 May 2018, 08:17

I found myself second-guessing that this was based on real events many times because this book had me thinking, "How could someone do this to themselves?" so often. I had to keep going back to the book's description to confirm that I hadn't misread and that The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid was based on true events.

What were some of the wildest moments in this book? Did you ever question the author's credibility?

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Post by kfwilson6 » 10 May 2018, 14:56

"Based on true events" always makes me wonder. When I read one BOTD, I saw that the Amazon reviews indicated some of the reviewers knew the author and barely any of the story was true. How much has to be true for a book to be labeled "based on true events?" I have no idea where the line is between being "based on" and being "inspired by."

I think the most shocking moment was the second helicopter lift. I kept thinking "NO DUKE, you don't know this pilot!!!" I was terrified but people do those type of stunts and there has to be a starting point.

I think most of the story of Duke is likely true. Gary's portion just aggravated me. 35 years old and still behaving as he was. I think the most difficult to believe aspect of the book was Gary's quick turn around upon Duke's death. Of all the years and experiences he had, why would the death of someone he had spent so little time with been so integral for him? Also, Angel's willingness to be with Gary was hard to comprehend. I just couldn't imagine anyone going after a man who allowed money to be stapled to his chest!!!!

Yup lots of surprises in this book.

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Post by bwill93 » 10 May 2018, 19:05

I haven't read the book but I did read the review and I found it to be a pretty amazing story. Sword swallowing in itself is a crazy thing to be real, but yet it is. I agree with kfwilson6 when she asks how much of a story needs to be true in order to be labeled "based on true events?"
I feel the same way about movies that are "based on true events," such as A Beautiful Mind. It is a great film, but the scene where the main character, John, almost drowns his baby in the bath tub and his wife comes home at the perfect time to save the baby is either real-life divine timing or an exaggeration. Many "based on true events" films include incredible climaxes, heightened drama, and suspense that is magically influenced by perfect timing. How much is real and how much is creative writing? The same can be asked of this book.

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 10 May 2018, 20:10

kfwilson6 wrote: I think most of the story of Duke is likely true. Gary's portion just aggravated me. 35 years old and still behaving as he was. I think the most difficult to believe aspect of the book was Gary's quick turn around upon Duke's death. Of all the years and experiences he had, why would the death of someone he had spent so little time with been so integral for him? Also, Angel's willingness to be with Gary was hard to comprehend. I just couldn't imagine anyone going after a man who allowed money to be stapled to his chest!!!!

Yup lots of surprises in this book.
I think that much of Duke’s story is true, but it seems a bit romanticized compared to Gary's. Robinson seemed more brutally honest about his own story than Duke's.

I agree, Gary's story was aggravating, and yet, I think it may have been more real than Duke's. I have actually met some people who are still struggling with drugs, alcohol, and to find their place as they approach middle age. Most of them tend to wind up in homeless shelters, though.

The part with Angel was pretty unrealistic, I agree. She seemed a bit clueless when we first meet her, drunk at the party. And then to take Gary's side because of "chemistry" seems a bit much if you ask me.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 10 May 2018, 21:36

Kendra M Parker wrote:
10 May 2018, 20:10
kfwilson6 wrote: I think most of the story of Duke is likely true. Gary's portion just aggravated me. 35 years old and still behaving as he was. I think the most difficult to believe aspect of the book was Gary's quick turn around upon Duke's death. Of all the years and experiences he had, why would the death of someone he had spent so little time with been so integral for him? Also, Angel's willingness to be with Gary was hard to comprehend. I just couldn't imagine anyone going after a man who allowed money to be stapled to his chest!!!!

Yup lots of surprises in this book.
Often, it is difficult to comprehend why people do certain things when you know the activity is crazy, stupid and insane. The fact that Gary still behaved recklessly has nothing to do with his age but I believe had everything to do with his addiction. Being addictive to drugs throws out any sense of logic that a normal/sane person may have. We do not know what a person may be going through in their life and how that situation is affecting them. We can imagine how you would feel but each person is different and everyone handles things in different ways. Gary mentioned that it was because he met Duke that he was able to change his life around, regardless of whether or not he had spent time with Duke, you cannot fully understand maybe how their encounter affected him. Simply because we may not be in constant contact with someone, does not mean that it erases what that chance encounter meant to him.
I think that much of Duke’s story is true, but it seems a bit romanticized compared to Gary's. Robinson seemed more brutally honest about his own story than Duke's.

I agree, Gary's story was aggravating, and yet, I think it may have been more real than Duke's. I have actually met some people who are still struggling with drugs, alcohol, and to find their place as they approach middle age. Most of them tend to wind up in homeless shelters, though.

The part with Angel was pretty unrealistic, I agree. She seemed a bit clueless when we first meet her, drunk at the party. And then to take Gary's side because of "chemistry" seems a bit much if you ask me.

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Post by dtb » 11 May 2018, 10:30

I have come to believe that most stories based on true events are probably mostly fiction. It doesn't mean that I value those stories less. It's the writing that matters most and if it feels honest I am happy.

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kfwilson6
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Post by kfwilson6 » 11 May 2018, 10:57

bwill93 wrote:
10 May 2018, 19:05
I haven't read the book but I did read the review and I found it to be a pretty amazing story. Sword swallowing in itself is a crazy thing to be real, but yet it is. I agree with kfwilson6 when she asks how much of a story needs to be true in order to be labeled "based on true events?"
I feel the same way about movies that are "based on true events," such as A Beautiful Mind. It is a great film, but the scene where the main character, John, almost drowns his baby in the bath tub and his wife comes home at the perfect time to save the baby is either real-life divine timing or an exaggeration. Many "based on true events" films include incredible climaxes, heightened drama, and suspense that is magically influenced by perfect timing. How much is real and how much is creative writing? The same can be asked of this book.
I thought about this a little more and I think if someone is going to label their fiction as "based on true events" the only fictional aspect of it should be limited, as much as possible, to the dialogue. No one is going to remember conversations they had or overheard word for word, so of course their needs to be some creative license there. But I think the events should be as representative as possible of the real-life events they are based on. Once you start getting into changing key aspects of a story or the characters' personalities, I think "inspired by" would be more appropriate.

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Post by kdstrack » 11 May 2018, 22:07

I had a hard time believing that Duke would snort meth before driving! And then he would drive with other people in the vehicle - endangering not only himself but others as well. I also thought it was a "coincidence" that Gary's landlord was Angel's husband!!

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 12 May 2018, 07:29

kdstrack wrote:
11 May 2018, 22:07
I had a hard time believing that Duke would snort meth before driving! And then he would drive with other people in the vehicle - endangering not only himself but others as well. I also thought it was a "coincidence" that Gary's landlord was Angel's husband!!
The coincidence of Gary's landlord being Angel's husband was mostly there so that they would have more connection when they finally met. Gary was one lucky man, though. He wins all the awards during rush week. He gets locked in a closet so that he doesn’t get stuck with the charges relating to eating the mammoth. His romantic interest is his landlord's wife, who wants to divorce her husband. He met up with Duke. He survived an overdose that should have killed him...

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Post by desantismt_17 » 12 May 2018, 12:11

Since this book was labeled as fiction, I went into it assuming there was a vague resemblence to reality but that most of the events were made up. I've heard that all fiction is just non-fiction masquerading as a story. If that's true, everything is "based on real events," even if those real events are as small as emotional reactions.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Post by desantismt_17 » 12 May 2018, 12:12

As to whether real life is stranger than fiction, they say people just can't make some things up. This doesn't prove anything, really, but there it is.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Post by kfwilson6 » 12 May 2018, 20:43

:?
desantismt_17 wrote:
12 May 2018, 12:12
As to whether real life is stranger than fiction, they say people just can't make some things up. This doesn't prove anything, really, but there it is.
So true. Sometimes when talking about my own life I say "I couldn't make this up." Because I realize how strange and unbelievable what I'm saying might sound.

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Post by Espie » 13 May 2018, 20:21

Sptlightstar wrote:
10 May 2018, 08:17
I found myself second-guessing that this was based on real events many times because this book had me thinking, "How could someone do this to themselves?" so often. I had to keep going back to the book's description to confirm that I hadn't misread and that The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid was based on true events.

What were some of the wildest moments in this book? Did you ever question the author's credibility?
The author has explained, quantified and given a backgrounder on his book and how it has been influenced by his own personal experiences through his letter posted in this site (viewtopic.php?f=81&t=67002). If the term "based on true events" will be a gauge of "the author's credibility" then it is helpful to consider that the book isn't a biography and, therefore, isn't claiming a 100% account of actual events (not to mention the fact that there are many ways that the truth could be perceived and correspondingly described based on the circumstances and capacities of the person on whose perspective the observation and account emanates from, among others). I have not read the book yet, yet in the same posted letter, Gary doesn't seem to emphasise much (if not, at all) on the technical rudiments of circus work or sword-swallowing but instead on the tales surrounding the characters' lives.
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

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Post by kfwilson6 » 13 May 2018, 20:43

desantismt_17 wrote:
12 May 2018, 12:11
Since this book was labeled as fiction, I went into it assuming there was a vague resemblence to reality but that most of the events were made up. I've heard that all fiction is just non-fiction masquerading as a story. If that's true, everything is "based on real events," even if those real events are as small as emotional reactions.
Well maybe in some cases but probably not in the case or dragons, wizards, and aliens (I get what you are saying about emotions though). I think a certain curiosity is sparked when a reader finds out a book is based on a true story. I think this curiosity is further intensified when the subject matter is so far out of the norm. The lack of detail in some areas of Duke's life may have been the result of gaps in Gary's own knowledge.

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Post by bobbiebryner » 15 May 2018, 07:56

I think that stories based on true events stick closer to reality if the story is told from another's point of view. In this story, Duke's character was very believable and authentic. I feel that his story line was fairly close to actual events. However, when the author switched to his own story line, I felt that the story lost its authenticity. For example, the author describes his meeting with Angel. I find it very hard to believe that Gary was unable to remember the events of the night before when Bags arrived in the morning, but he was able to remember a very deep and soul-searching dialogue between himself and this woman he just met. Also when the author described his interactions with Duke, it seemed unlikely that the interaction would be so intense so early on in their relationship. I think that the author's perspective of the events were biased because the author supposedly lived these events. He was able to include his thoughts, his interpretations, and his desired embellishments to the events. I think this made the story seem stranger-than-fiction.

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