Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Memoirs are books and books CAN get away with anything
I don't really take issue with Lauren Slater over the possibility that she's inventing the epilepsy in her "memoir" any more than I took issue with Tim O'Brien or Yann Martel. True, they didn't call their books memoirs, but the principle is the same. Why would an author want to bend the truth in a memoir? For the same reason any author does--to better convey the truth of what they really want to say. Maybe Slater felt like her childhood was similar to being stricken with a disease that both debilitated her and took her to new heights, but just saying 'My childhood could be compared to having a disease' wouldn't exactly get the point across to readers. But claiming she actually has the disease makes the reader see what she's getting at. It's like Dr. Westover says about writing, "Show us, don't tell us." I think it's perfectly acceptable to use that tactic in writing, whether it's a memoir or a novel or whatever. Getting the reader to buy into the story and therefore draw the point out of it more than justifies the need to embellish or even invent the facts and call them "true."