The lack of firsthand accounts leads to the promulgation of contradictory opinions on the fate of the doomed seven climbers. Though Wilcox and Snyder each published books, neither was a part of the second summit group, and thus they are not totally equipped to report on the group’s final days. Tabor is therefore forced to make value judgments about the beliefs of others. The lack of diaries and examinable bodies forces Tabor to construct an entire narrative around what is essentially an empty center. All he has to work with is narratives of those on the periphery and his own educated guesses.
In the Author’s Note at the end of the text, Tabor explains his approach to writing Forever on the Mountain: “One tempting approach was to fictionalize those events, but my editor steered me elsewhere, asserting that to fictionalize even a small part of the narrative risked undermining its vastly greater factual parts” (371). His contention that no part of the narrative is fictionalized seems odd in light of his choice to rely on guesswork (albeit informed) and invented dialogue to advance the plot. By focusing on producing a book that differs from those of Wilcox and Snyder in that it lacks an overt agenda, Tabor ignores the fact that is an agenda in itself. He acknowledges that “All perceptions, of course, depend on the position of the observer” (Tabor 363). However, he does not go so far that the perspective of any one narrative or the piecing together of many, is akin to fictionalization. Jacques Derrida in the Afterword to Limited, Inc. seems to discuss this problem:
what is ‘nonfiction standard discourse,’ […]? This question is all the more indispensable since the rules, and even the statements of the rules governing the relations of ‘nonfiction standard discourse’ and its fictional ‘parasites,’ are not things found in nature, but laws, symbolic inventions, institutions that in their very normality as well as in their normativity, entail something of the fictional (133).
While I would never presume to fully understand anything Derrida writes, even two years after Lit Theory, it seems to me he is troubling the distinction between fiction and nonfiction that the writers we have read this semester hold so dear. Thus, perhaps it is not that Tabor lacks direct access to the events he is investigating that problematizes his claims to “the truth.” Rather, it is that he, like Snyder, Wilcox, Krakauer, and anyone else who constantly has that first person narrator going in his or her head, assigns significance to things, thereby turning happenings into events in a larger story, a process which renders concerns such as “the truth” obsolete.