We've seen one controversy-after-another in the world of memoirs. Over-and-over, we learn that the facts of the memoirs are not what we've been told. Lies, fabrications, flights of fancy, gigantic leaps, and mis-truths--it's all a bit disheartening (that is, if we really want to believe in the truthfulness of the tale). So, it seems fitting (in a month when we talk about Banned Books) that we revisit the genre!
What is a memoir? How true is it (of course, I realize that some writers would seek to re-create their own reality)? Does a writer (past or present) have the license to embellish (or "slant") the truth? As Emily Dickinson once wrote, "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--" And, Laura Dietz writes: "What's the truth? Whatever the author says it is. Memoirs will get away with whatever they can."
With all that I've experience in the world of cancer in the last few years, I've read a number of memoirs (sometimes, those stories help us to realize that we are not alone in our circumstances). Of course, John Gunther's classic Death Be Not Proud is one of the most memorable classic memoirs. So, here's a question... Would you be okay with it if you learned that the life and death of the young boy in Gunther's memoir had been largely a figment of his imagination?
It wouldn't be the SAME story, of course. We are drawn to a young boy, who is struggling against the odds. We come to know the whole family. Gunther has given us a window into their lives: their joys and final sorrows. And, when my own family experienced some of the same incidents, I came to feel that there were others who could intimately understand my pain and fear--the daily struggles...
So, what's your opinion of a memoir? Should it be filled with fabricated facts (or fancies)? How truthful will your memoir be?