Honesty in Memoir, Ver. 3.0

April 13, 2010 § Leave a comment


Our friend Richard Gilbert has advanced the Shields/Reality Hunger argument on his blog, with some deeper thought and analysis.  Gilbert, initially resistant, has come to agree with many of Shields’  ideas.

Well worth the read:

As the Oklahoma side of my family would say, Shields is peeing up a rope regarding narrative: he might as well inveigh against human sexuality: narrative is intrinsic to Homo sapiens. Non-narrative presentation is not only an advanced technique, it’s for a discerning audience. I learned this when I tried to teach some mulish college juniors—alas, not even English majors—to read and write lyric and collage essays. They were hardened criminals, that group. But still. They would have responded to narrative, and did when I finally recast the class in midstream.

But as concerns Shields’ thoughts on shaping memory, Gilber writes:

Shields’s lapse in this case aside, in the year since first hearing him argue that memoir isn’t journalism but literature—hence subject to latitude regarding literal truth in order to achieve Truth—I’ve come to agree with him…  hard at work on my own memoir in the intervening year, I’ve noticed how my memory actually works, how it melds events like dreams do. I’ve wondered how best to convey lived experience in order to honor the remembered, emotional truth of that experience. And I’ve read more acclaimed memoirs and, in re-reading the ones that really grabbed me, I’ve noticed how the writers have recreated experience. In the midst of this struggle I’ve also read more of what other writers have had to say.

Visit Gilbert’s Blog here.

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