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

Post by azerikaj » 15 May 2018, 14:46

While I also found Gary annoying, I think I read somewhere that people who use drugs for a long time can become "stuck" emotionally at the age they were when the heavy use began. In which case, his lack of maturity makes some sense.
Yes, I totally believe that Gary-the_author added some reflections in that Gary the character would not be capable of as it happened.

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Post by kfwilson6 » 15 May 2018, 16:20

bobbiebryner wrote:
15 May 2018, 07:56
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.
I think you have a very good point. Once he learned about Duke's story from Duke, he could sort of glean from it what he thought sounded reasonable and worth sharing with a less personal, biased view of it. He could eliminate anything he thought sounded too embellished or over-the-top in any way. He didn't have the luxury of doing the same with his own life.

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Post by amypattenaude » 16 May 2018, 00:25

I am only a quarter of the way done with this book. My first reaction to the original statement of this topic is, if you have a hard time believing most of the story is true, then I fear you have not been surrounded by a colorful lot of people. Just from the first quarter of the book I can think of characters that have come and gone from my life that would be just as out there and crazy, and some of those are family friends that I have known my whole life, some are family, some are retired military, some are just random people I picked up along the way. And a few of my very own experiences and stories and happenstances could hold up to some of what the author wrote.

He was very honest in saying that the book was a loose interpretation of the life events of Duke. He never claimed they were verbatim. As with Hollywood and cinema, he used "artistic license." Like every single novel written around the subject of a famous person(s) life and times. We can't honestly say that Queen Elizabeth the first was a virgin, but we can elaborate on every single rumor, story, notation, or "historical fact" and make her life seem as risqué as an HBO show.

Do i think everything told in the book is going to be 100% true? No, if it was then people wouldn't read it. You have to elaborate, embellish, color the world you are creating and presenting. So far I think the author has found a good middle ground. Believable if you run with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne from the 80's, but just wild enough to blow the socks off Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Post by K Geisinger » 16 May 2018, 07:38

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 book started out with an intro saying he made most of it up. Real life can be stranger than fiction, but I think this is a case of an interesting man prompting an interesting story. I doubt the real Duke featured heavily into the novel.

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Post by kfwilson6 » 16 May 2018, 07:59

amypattenaude wrote:
16 May 2018, 00:25
I am only a quarter of the way done with this book. My first reaction to the original statement of this topic is, if you have a hard time believing most of the story is true, then I fear you have not been surrounded by a colorful lot of people.
This is very true and a fair point. Our own experiences with "weird" can definitely shift our perspective as to what other things we believe to be fact or fiction. I can't say as I have met anyone even close to as colorful as Duke or anyone in his circus family. I also don't know any addicts so it's hard for me to determine how bizarre their behavior might be. The story about the museum seemed incredibly far-fetched to me. I just could not imagine people being that irresponsible, disgusting, and stupid. So my world view is actually pretty small compared to a lot of people. In business we always say "it's who you know." This statement seems to apply here just as much as it does in business. When you know people who have done weird, bizarre, or dangerous things, it is easier to believe when others claim to have attempted some odd feats.

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Post by Sptlightstar » 17 May 2018, 11:22

The author seems to shift his stance on how much of this is actually fiction. When this book was posted on the Online Book Club Facebook page weeks ago, he responded to several comments about how wild of a story this was with a response along the likes of "I am grateful to have survived it."

The book also appears under the "Biographies and Memoirs" category on its Amazon Kindle page. In the special message he shared, he states, "The book is fiction, but much of this story is based on actual experiences," yet I've found many conversations where he claims the events are true. The branding of this book is confusing and misleading to people buying it. If I bought a book labeled "Biography and Memoir" and the preface states it's based on true events but the book is a work of fiction, I'd second-guess the publishing quality of the work.

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Post by Bookmermaid » 18 May 2018, 12:52

I certainly think that Duke's relation of many aspects of his real life proves to be stranger that fiction. His claim of swallowing not one but six 30 inches sword. His feat in the straitjacket atop a helicopter and his assisting of his friend to blow open a safe in the middle of the night all proves to be quite startling.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 22 May 2018, 20:09

amypattenaude wrote:
16 May 2018, 00:25
I am only a quarter of the way done with this book. My first reaction to the original statement of this topic is, if you have a hard time believing most of the story is true, then I fear you have not been surrounded by a colorful lot of people. Just from the first quarter of the book I can think of characters that have come and gone from my life that would be just as out there and crazy, and some of those are family friends that I have known my whole life, some are family, some are retired military, some are just random people I picked up along the way. And a few of my very own experiences and stories and happenstances could hold up to some of what the author wrote.

He was very honest in saying that the book was a loose interpretation of the life events of Duke. He never claimed they were verbatim. As with Hollywood and cinema, he used "artistic license." Like every single novel written around the subject of a famous person(s) life and times. We can't honestly say that Queen Elizabeth the first was a virgin, but we can elaborate on every single rumor, story, notation, or "historical fact" and make her life seem as risqué as an HBO show.

Do i think everything told in the book is going to be 100% true? No, if it was then people wouldn't read it. You have to elaborate, embellish, color the world you are creating and presenting. So far I think the author has found a good middle ground. Believable if you run with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne from the 80's, but just wild enough to blow the socks off Laura Ingalls Wilder.
What a great commentary! As I have been reading the comments regarding this topic, I was confused an shocked by some of the responses given. I am sure most people have known or come into contact with someone who has lived a wild life. As you mentioned it could be family member, close friend or even themselves that have maybe come close or went well past the things that Duke or Gary experienced. I can't understand why it is hard to believe some of the incidents mentioned in the book is beyond the comprehension of many posting. Although people may not have experienced the wild or dark side of life, does not mean that it does not occur.

Another thing, what we have to consider about the authenticity of some of the events in the book could be because of the lack of clear memory of the events. Both characters were addicted to drugs and alcohol, which can distort memory and completely not remember something happened. This occurs when a person has had a blackout. Just because a person is unable to recall an incident that happened the night before but able to describe the conversation of a person he just met without problems, does not mean that the event is not real. Thank you for keeping it real.

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Post by onixpam » 22 May 2018, 20:52

I think the book tries to get closer to the true story, and I do not really surprised about what people is capable of doing, mostly if they are suffering of drug or alcohol abuse. A lot of times we can see real-life stories stranger than fiction books.

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Post by ValBookReviews » 25 May 2018, 13:48

What's not to believe? There are so many relatable moments, until I just cannot choose just one, whereas, I never questioned the author credibility is why I was so fascinated by the book; wherefore, "the story seem just as strange as nonfiction".
"And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life". (Revelation 20:12 (NKJV) :reading-7:

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Post by lavellan » 26 May 2018, 23:35

I think that some parts of the story were dramatized, but I think that the overall message and meeting of the characters were true. Duke's story probably was the most exaggerated especially the helicopter scenes.

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Post by Sheenah684 » 27 May 2018, 17:00

I typically think that "based on true events" means very loosely based on true events. There may be a connection to the truth, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Post by amypattenaude » 28 May 2018, 00:25

Sheenah684 wrote:
27 May 2018, 17:00
I typically think that "based on true events" means very loosely based on true events. There may be a connection to the truth, but I wouldn't count on it.
I wouldn't say "very loosely" for all events. I myself have a couple of stories from my childhood in the 80's that would be on par with most of what I have read so far. It was the 60's, and just based on some of the documentaries, interviews and other reading I have done nothing in here yet seems to extreme. Except maybe getting your whole body covered in tats in a month. That's pretty difficult and painful.

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Post by Empress naria » 28 May 2018, 00:29

I have not been able to read The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid as yet, however, I do believe that real-life is stranger than fiction and can appear as such as one will know that its just imagination with fiction. I have however, seen persons swallowing swords and have doubted the material of the sword and if there is some trick to having the swords in the mouth.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 28 May 2018, 01:53

amypattenaude wrote:
28 May 2018, 00:25
Sheenah684 wrote:
27 May 2018, 17:00
I typically think that "based on true events" means very loosely based on true events. There may be a connection to the truth, but I wouldn't count on it.
I wouldn't say "very loosely" for all events. I myself have a couple of stories from my childhood in the 80's that would be on par with most of what I have read so far. It was the 60's, and just based on some of the documentaries, interviews and other reading I have done nothing in here yet seems to extreme. Except maybe getting your whole body covered in tats in a month. That's pretty difficult and painful.
I agree with your comments regarding the era that the book was set in. I was bor in 1961 and although I was a little to young to really understand the whole 60's concept of "free love," hippies, and a time where a lot of drugs were used; I know that it was a time that would have totally blew some of the readers mind. Acid trips, burning bras and wild orgies were rampant back then. Bikers such as the Hell's Angels were notorius for tatoos.

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