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Miss Mary seemed resigned to the rain which was steadier now and no less heavy and she had given up writing letters and was reading something that interested her. It was The Prince by Machiavelli. I wondered what it would be like if it should rain three days or four. With Simenon in the quantities that I possessed of him I was good for a month if I stopped reading and thought between books, pages, or chapters. Driven by continuing rain I could think between paragraphs, not thinking of Simenon but of other things and I thought I could last a month quite easily and profitably even if there should be nothing to drink and I should be driven to using Arap Maina's snuff or trying out the different brews from the medicinal trees and plants we had come to know.
This is a rough-joking outfit," Miss Mary said. "You and G.C. joke very rough and Pop jokes quite rough. I joke rough too I know. But not as bad as all of you."
"Some jokes are all right in Africa but they don't travel because people don't realize what the country and the animals are like, it is all the world of the animals and they have predators. People who have never known predators don't know what you are talking about. Nor do people that never had to kill their meat. And they don't know the tribes and what is natural and normal. I put it very badly I know, Kittner, but I'll try and write it so it can be understood. But you have to say so many things that most people will not understand nor conceive of doing."
"I know," Mary said. "And the liars write the books and how can you compete with a liar? How can you compete with a man who writes how he shot and killed a lion and then they carried him to camp in a lorry and suddenly the lion came alive? How can you compete with the truth against a man who says the Great Ruaha was maggoty with crocodiles? But you don't have to."
"No," I said. "And I won't. But you can't blame the liars because all a writer of fiction is really is a congenital liar who invents from his own knowledge or that of other men. I am a writer of fiction and so I am a liar too and invent from what I know and what I've heard. I'm a liar."
"But you would not lie to G.C. or Pop or me on what a lion did, or a leopard did, or what a buff did."
"No. But that is private. A man who writes a novel or a short story is a liar ipso facto. His only excuse is that he makes the truth as he invents it truer than it would be. That is what makes good writers or bad. If he writes in the first person, stating it is fiction, critics now will still try to prove these things never happened to him. It is as silly as trying to prove Defoe was not Robinson Crusoe so therefore it is a bad book. I'm sorry if I sound like speeches. But we can make speeches together on a rainy day...."
"The other day you said all writers were crazies and today you say they're all liars."
"Did I say they were all crazies?"