Tuesday, December 2, 2008
For our Reading Across Genres class, which meets for the last time next Monday, we discussed Vivian Gornick's Fierce Attachments in connection with Shannon Olson's class visit. Gornick's memoir was hugely popular until it was discovered she fabricated much of it--imagined dialogue that was crucial to character, created composite characters, and on. We discussed memoir that gets at Truth versus truth--essence versus entirety. Trish Hampl is steadfast--keep it true. Others play loose with it: James Frey, as we all know, and I just learned I, Rigoberta Manchu mentions the death of the author's brother by guerrilla forces, and later, it was discovered he was still alive (though I'm searching on the internet to see if I can smooth out the details of this story and I'm a bit fuzzy on the issue--still, the assertion is much of the storyline is fabricated and altered). I love a good narrative, and labels are problematic, so I can't let you know where I fall on the continuum, aside from adoration of a good story.
One of the other poetry writers in the program pointed out that (and here, I must admit, I am paraphrasing, not making an accurate, tape recorded quote, just to clarify, in case anyone thought this was indeed, a True/true memoir) "as writers, as soon as we move from that picture in our mind and put words to memory, we are already beginning to lie."
I love that poets don't have to adhere to the labels of Truth or truth or novel or anything in between. There are assumptions, but we can be coy.
On a related note, I've now had two shifts at the bookstore, and I am absolutely enamored (and sorry it's only seasonal work). The owner is absolutely wonderful (it's always easy to love a job when there is a great manager involved--boss, professor, instructor, person in charge) and I've always loved working with books, selling them, talking to customers about them. And this kind of small town shop allows for that kind of lazy conversation about NPR's programming and birding guides and baby name books and the local food movement. Sigh. Oh, and did I mention the huge selection of advanced reader's copies? Yup, in the back room there's just shelves of them, and there's little competition as there was at Barnes and Noble (where I worked for five and a half years) since there's only five of us, including the owner.