Dante Papier: Musings on Truth
Dante Papier is the mind-child of Novlr Author Daniel Piper, whom you can find on Instagram and substack and you can buy his book here. He has a column here on the Novlr blog (read his intro here). Enjoy.
What is truth? Where is truth? When is truth? Who is truth? Why is truth?
These are the questions that get me out of bed in the morning. Every day I stand in front of the mirror and, after recounting positive affirmations about myself and my writing, look myself in the eye(s) and ask myself the five Ts. Because what use is a writer whose every waking hour – nay, minute – nay, second – is not dedicated to the pursuit of truth?
I casually glance at the Sunday Times Best Sellers List every week and ask myself: do any of these writers seek the truth? Does Richard Osman seek the truth? Does Marie Kondo seek the truth? Does Jamie Oliver seek the truth? Once, several years ago, I made the grave error of purchasing one of Oliver’s “books” in order to see what all the fuss was about. And do you know what I found, gentle reader? I found perhaps the greatest insult to prose: Pictures. Page upon page debased with photographs of lasagnes. Casseroles. Frangipanes.
But it’s a cookbook! I hear you cry, dear reader. He has to show us the frangipane! No! A true artist would show us the frangipane with words. He would paint a picture of it with prose. If his writing were of any merit whatsoever, we would be able to see – nay, feel – nay, taste – the frangipane just by reading about it.
Indeed, if Jamie Oliver or any of the other cookery writers who persist in colonising the Sunday Times Best Sellers List sought the truth in their writing, there would be no need to include photographs with their recipes. In fact, the reader should not even feel compelled to cook the recipe – their hunger should be sated simply by reading it. Any cookery writer worth their salt ought to be able to convince the reader that they actually eating the food being described. Indeed, a truly great cookery writer’s recipes should all remain uncooked. And yet here they are, your Olivers, your Ottolenghis, your Marys, your Berrys, wasting precious paper on pictures and telling us to go away and cook.
I blame the internet. Websites. Social media. iTunes. Podcasts. Teletext. There are simply too many ways for people to express themselves these days, and amidst these abominable distractions, the humble art of writing is slowly becoming lost. Forgotten. Unremembered. In the past, when the seed of a creative thought began to germinate within the fertile soil of an artist’s mind, all he/she/they had to do was pick up a pen and some parchment. Now, they can take a photo. Shoot a “vid”. Build an “app”. Record a song. Record a podcast.
(Side note: over the past five years, I have failed to meet one person who does not host, or at the very least have an idea for, a podcast. It is an epidemic. In my honest and accurate opinion, the phrase ‘everybody has a book inside them’ is in serious danger of being replaced by the phrase ‘everybody has a podcast inside them’ – a thought that often causes me to break out in hives.)
With so many other, lesser, art forms available, is it any wonder that writing is being lost, forgotten, unremembered? Is it any wonder that so many choose to reach for the camera or microphone instead of the pen? Is it any wonder that instead of sitting down to write, today’s teens prefer to record videos of themselves dancing on the spot while occasionally pointing at text? (Yes, dear reader, I have briefly strayed onto Tick Tock for research.)
And do you know what, gentle reader? I am ashamed to admit that I too was once not immune to the seductions of other, lesser mediums. Before lockdown, before I discovered my truth, before I became Dante Papier, I was known to indulge in other art forms. I was known to chuckle along to a comedy series on Netflix, post a candid snap to Instagram or even (for shame!) raise an inquisitive eyebrow whilst listening to a true crime podcast. But no more! I now know, thank goodness, what a fool I was, and I have since shunned these truth-devoid debaucheries from my life.
Time spent watching television is time not spent writing. Time spent on social media is time not spent writing. Time spent listening to platitudinous prattle is time not spent writing. Time spent photographing frangipanes is time not spent writing.
What is truth? Writing. Where is truth? Writing. When is truth? Writing. Who is truth? Writing. Why is truth? Writing.
Author, Writer & Litterateur