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Random Thoughts About Whatever Comes to Mind

Memoirs: Truth vs. truthiness?

Writers and readers face a conundrum when it comes to memoirs. Should they reflect truth or, as S. Colbert would have it, "truthiness?" Should we write and/or read them with our heads or our hearts? In a way, it comes down to the old divide between art and experience.

The issue acquires special resonance when you're not talking about a memoir per se but rather a fictional account of a life's true events.

Ian Parker's penetrating article 'Inheritance' in the June 2 issue of The New Yorker (pp. 43-55) addresses this indirectly by putting Edward St. Aubyn under much the same sort of microscope through which St. Aubyn examines the characters in his unsettling Melrose novels. While claiming not to be a memoirist, St. Aubyn views the contents of the Melrose novels as memories "treated novelistically," and Parker dedicates much of the article to pinpointing the relationship between truth, creative integrity, and narrative necessity in the novels. Just how much, in other words, is reportage and how much is not?  Read More 
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