Friday, May 23, 2008

You Can't Stray

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a good Friday. Saw the new James Frey novel (thank God he isn't calling it a memoir) in the bookstore today and thought of Charles' post on Razored Zen about the issue of Frey's work (and subsequent deception of his audience) which brings up an interesting question about the difference between fiction, thinly veiled autobiography, and memoir. After years of reading, writing, and teaching, I finally came to the brilliant conclusion (okay, it's not that revolutionary, but bear with me) that memoir requires insight into the narrator's situation and character. A story does not. Both require a compelling character, but in memoir, it's more important that the character be likeable. In fiction, you're more free to be whatever the story requires. In memoir, life is the story and you can't stray.

It's no suprise that I wrote fiction for years before I felt as if I could tackle nonfiction. My life never interested me that way and the parts that did, I couldn't seem to get work except in the most wooden of ways on the page. There's a large portion of people who believe that writing memoir is easier and it is in certain ways. But there's a personal cost that comes with good nonfiction, the issues of complicity and shame. If you're honest, it's probably going to be painful. Fiction has never evoked that feeling in me of being a bad person. But nonfiction does all the time. I like going back and forth between the forms because each teaches something about the other one. Readers, if you have any ideas on this issue, please feel free to share.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If you don't know a man, you can't crush him and if you know him, you probably won't crush him." G.K. Chesterton

Cocktail Hour
Drinking Pistons drink suggestion: The Sheed: a shot of Three Wisemen

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!


Anonymous said...

Frey? That name sounds familiar. Yes, I do recall the Oprah stink surrounding his supposed fiction/memoir. So many books, so little time. My advice is to choose the best ones to read, "likeable" or not.--Herman Northrop Frye

Anonymous said...

EggBeaters(with convenient new pouring spout!)! Now on sale at Krogers! 2/$6.00 Smart Nutrition!--Mr. Whipple

Anonymous said...

Go Wings! Bring home the Cup! Go Hank Z, nullify the Peng's Crosby!--JLCGULL

Anonymous said...

Go Pistons! Keep Boston's road losing streak going! Win at the Palace, Pistons!--Fred Zollner

laughingwolf said...

you've nailed it, michelle....

Charles Gramlich said...

I do a lot of nonfiction actualy but almost all of it is either about science or biographical stuff on writers. I never found my personal world interesting although most of my characters certainly have autobiographical elements.

chris said...

Why would the Character in a memoir have to be likeable ?

They could be a dirty rotten SOB.

I think the Readers would be more inclined to want to know, what the Person had gotten away with or How Evil the person really was.

Or, how kind, loving or giving, The person may have been.

Personal experiences could be more painfull, But remember, That which has not killed you has only made you stronger !

There really is truth in that statement.