Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fake Memoirs

We've been having an extended conversation at work about the "fake memoir" phenomenon. Here are some articles that have been passed around on the topic, to get you up to speed:

A NY Times Summary
How to Write a Misery Memoir
A Spoof Publishing Memo

I went on record in the work conversation blaming this trend on postmodernism. Authors are more willing to fabricate life experiences because we’ve lost confidence in truth and reality. Why not construct your own reality if all reality is constructed?

I also cited the existentialist factor. Writing an interesting novel just makes you a novelist, but an interesting memoir makes you a celebrity in your own right. We esteem people who have had authentic experiences (that's what makes you a good existentialist hero). So these people are hypocrites of authenticity: They recognize the value of having “real” (“gritty”) experiences and fake having them.

Then I was directed to this New Yorker essay (HT: Jon Schindler). I think it partially supports my arguments and partially contradicts them. What I thought of as postmodern turns out to be fairly thoroughly modern (this seems to happen a lot). The gender division between history and novels is something I never thought of before.

If I had the discipline, I would like to write an essay interacting with the New Yorker article and the study of biblical history, another essay about the Victorian concepts of reason and gender, and another essay about Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story."

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