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Fiction, Fact, and Faked Memoirs

July 3, 2009

Periodic SCWC staffer and prolific features contributor to the San Diego Reader, Thomas Larson (The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reader and Writing Personal Narrative), addresses the state of faked memoirs (post-James Frey) and its impact on writers, readers and the publishing world as a whole in this essay for the New English Review:

Fiction, Fact, and Faked Memoirs
by Thomas Larson

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story is the claim every storyteller is admonished to believe. What our ten-thousand-year-old tale-telling tradition (most of it oral) instructs us to do is to be good dramatists and let the story have its sway. This law of the tale, and our drama-loving DNA, is why the Bible has survived so long: its well-told stories were the means by which its morally sound messages were delivered and, tellers and scribes hoped, stuck. When disputes about a story’s authenticity arose, the Bible authors were less keen to preserve history or embrace veracity than to make the drama central, via legend, fantasy, parable, and the fictionalized life, based on Egyptian mythology, reified as well as purified, of Jesus Christ. The Bible is a work of narrative literature and a work of fiction. But, the problem is, its fiction has almost always been thought of as fact.

Against the tradition of fictionalizing fact is a counter-tradition: those who disbelieve the Bible’s authenticity, those who question the moral claims of mythic and fictional literature, those who find truth only in existential doubt. Dethroning literature of its moral supremacy—that Bible stories and other mythic dramas, whether in epic poem or realistic novel, illustrate what’s true—is giving way to a more adaptive literature, one where claims of mythic and dramatic truth are questioned, attacked, dismantled. Its form today is the memoir, which in storming the Babel of literature has knocked the good-story notion on its head. Trumpets raised, the memoir heralds that the truth should get in the way of a good story. That truth can only be deceived by drama and, thus, become its victim. We need look no further for evidence that the memoir is dethroning fiction’s reign than to look at the surprising celebrity accrued by the faked memoir.

>>Read entire article

–msg

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One comment

  1. Insightful read. Pretty amazing how many of the “fake” memoir authors created colliding realities as a means to an end and the degree of cognitive dissonance it took for them to justify doing so. The workings of the mind is fascinating.



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