- Is it ever really possible to get distance and perspective?
- Are memoir and autobiography ever fully “true”?
- How much can a writer truly reveal in public or even private writings?
- Are these things fully known to the author herself?
- How much do emotion and distance color things?
- In the shaping of a life story, should a reader “listen in” on what is omitted?
- Where is the moment autobiography shifts to autobiographical fiction?
I keep circling back to the ideas of infallibility and omniscience — two things no one has, but two things that would be needed to fully recored a “true” life. I don’t write memoir or autobiography so I am no expert, but I can’t help thinking what a challenge both formats would be. Memoir allows for more artistic license, (focusing on portions of a life rather than a whole life, for example, or in arranging events for thematic purposes), but both genres are expected to speak truth.
Perhaps the windows autobiography and memoir afford us are enough to catch a glimpse of a true life. Perhaps journals, though they don’t tell the whole story, remove the public filter enough for a reader to know the author intimately. Maybe fictionalized accounts like the Little House books can give readers as strong a sense of a life as non-fiction.
Thinking, thinking, thinking.
* Laura Ingalls Wilder herself used fictionalized accounts of her childhood to get at greater truths. She said about her book, BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE, “All I have told is true, but it’s not the whole truth.”