The larger truth in Three Cups of Tea

Bapsi Sidhwa in Houston Chronicle:

Greg I met Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, for the second time in October 2010 at a fundraiser in Dallas. As a recipient of an award, I sat at his table and found him to be courteous, disarmingly shy and self-effacing. He was the last to make a presentation, and as he spoke, I was alarmed by the way he intermittently fought for breath and paused between sentences. It was obvious he was exhausted and ill. I am shocked that he continued his grueling speaking schedule for almost six months after that — visiting schools and addressing fundraisers on a daily basis. I know now that he has a hole in his heart and is due for surgery. The way in which a 60 Minutes reporter interrupted Mortenson at an event for children in Atlanta and ambushed him with questions about allegations that he had falsified parts of his book was not only a bullying tactic, but also dangerous in view of his health.

“If you're looking for truth, read fiction; if you're in the mood for fiction read autobiography.” I have heard something to this effect repeated so often that it has become a truism – and, paradoxically, the axiom is often dismissed as a witticism. But there is more accuracy in these words than first meets the eye. As a writer, I know there are many ways of arriving at a truth, and fiction, with its accruements of imagination, intuition and arsenal of complex trajectories, can help a writer to express her or his thoughts as exactly and completely as is possible and in doing so arrive at the truth. Hard autobiography and biography, with their insistence on fact, appear to demand only one-dimensional slivers of truth, and whenever I've attempted autobiography I've sat frozen before my computer – wall-eyed with writer's block.

More here.