Saturday, November 28, 2009

On "The Unreliable Memoirist" by Keith Lord (4705 words) ****

A few years ago, there was quite a rage over A Million Little Pieces, the James Frey memoir that proved to be in part made-up. But what memoir isn't? I remember reading a guide to memoir writing in a class that I took in autobiographical writing of early America. That book explicitly told writers to embellish, to add details that they couldn't possibly remember. But perhaps there are levels of embellishment that are allowed and levels that are not. Perhaps you can add what clothes you were wearing on the day you saw the Space Shuttle explode but cannot decide that you were a heroin addict instead of only an occasional heroin user. Where does one draw the line? And what are the consequences of drawing the line in the wrong place?

This is what Keith Lord's story is in part about. It's also about a not entirely sympathetic protagonist who becomes less sympathetic the more that we learn about his memoir and its inaccuracies. But it's art, isn't it? Just like a movie is an adaptation that changes facts, a book changes facts as well. How do you tell a good story if you don't at least set it up well? Lord does quite a job setting it up here, at Our Stories.

1 comment:

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