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P.S. About the truth.

December 31, 2011 \pm\31 3:04 pm

The preoccupation memoirists have with the truth is fascinating. I suppose I understand, if you bill yourself that way, the last thing you’d want is for people to think you’re a liar and get Oprah on your case.

I am not a memoirist, I guess. I was indirectly taught that memoirs, like biographies, should only be about ‘notables’ in society, like movie stars, ex-presidents and murderers. Presently I don’t believe that, I think a story is a story and a story must be told.

So not a memoirist then, but definitely a blogger, which implies some sort of non-fictional, current stance. But I’ve been creative with what I’ve written, usually under a fiction label but always based on the life I see, and I write under a pseudonym, though that fact calls for its own post. I distort events and create exaggerations, and project and invent and recount and confess — but you’d mostly never recognize which of your mates I’m writing about, and getting people other than myself in trouble with The Law is completely off limits. I don’t eat cheese.

What I mean is I have my own ethics, or set of rules, that make sense to me, that are how I try to operate and how I would maybe like others to operate but I don’t expect them to. I realize that other people have their own ethics, their own agendas and rules, shaped by their own upbringing and past and genetic makeup and I-don’t-know-what else. I hold other people to my largely arbitrary code no more than I would like them to hold me to theirs. I evaluate people and then decide if I can and want to put up with the aspects of their code that oppose mine. And once I make the decision I never blame them for being who they are. They were who they are when I met them. People always tell you who they really are, too, it’s just up to you whether you listen. I often plug my fingers in my ears.

But with the memoir label in particular, people seem to become extra catty about THE FACTS. Oh, I should also state that I am also not a memoirist because I have the worst memory for facts. I like to blur reality IRL chemically as much as I like to do so with literature. I’m one of those often reviled ESCAPISTS. I read and watch movies or TV to be entertained and to escape. And I am very good at it. I can escape so far into the very worst of books so that I forget myself completely and I become that ill-written character. I fill in the holes in his backstory like I edit the grammar of his prose. I am an escape artist and a daydreamer. Gregor Samsa and Nick Flynn and that cute eight-grade punk rock kid named David whose dick I sucked while his dad was watching TV in the other room are all the men of my past.

And so maybe this escape affinity or more truthfully, addiction, informs my view of REALITY as basically transitory, changeable, based on fallible human perception. It may not have helped that I went through a big self-help/Buddhist/philosophy phase in my formative years and I internalized a lot of existential ideas about the nature of whatever, everything.

But so if even at a more basic level you accept that your perception is not immutable, at best not beyond reproach, I see no reason to attach all this significance to the ‘memoir’ and ‘non-fiction’ labels. What does it matter to you as reader if I write this great story and tell you, ‘this actually happened’ instead of ‘I just made this up.’ I don’t get it. If you are not involved IRL, what does it matter that I say to you that the character in this story lives on my street, look, here’s a map, it’s a real-life breathing person. Are you going to come down and visit and make certain? How and why would that change my story? Why are you so much more interested in my backstory? How do you know anything is ‘real’?

This is true and, I think, funny: I know this brother and sister pair. Terribly attractive and just as fucked up. The brother, the eldest, told me that when they were growing up he’d do this thing where he’d turn to his sister, look her serious-dead in the eyes unblinking and say shit like, ‘Wake up, sis. Wake up. Wake up, sis. Time for your meds. Wake up.’

IN CONCLUSION, a simplistic example: I wrote a ‘fictional tale’ of a girl who aborts a goldfish. That story is probably the most truth I’ve ever told. But like they say, you’ll have to take my word for it.

  1. December 31, 2011 \pm\31 4:21 pm 4:21 pm

    There are many different gradations of what is acceptable in nonfiction. In grad school there were many heated discussions, sometimes between profs, about what is acceptable in nonfic. One of my profs was so hard line he refused to condone the use of quotation marks for dialogue unless the writer had a tape recording of the conversation to be sure he got it word-for-word accurate. He had a background in journalism so that’s understandable. Ultimately it’s up to the writer to determine his own code of ethics with nonfic. My opinion is that when a piece presents itself as nonfic (memoir falls into this classification IMO) it carries a very different weight than if it calls itself fiction.

    • December 31, 2011 \pm\31 5:16 pm 5:16 pm

      what is that weight it carries, that is what i’m interested in. if i can’t verify the facts, or they’re really not worth verifying, then how/why does that affect my level of interest or enjoyment


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