07 March 2008

Cheap Thrills

We touched on this issue earlier, but recent events have once again brought it to light. Slate here, here, and here once again calls our attention to the scandal of faked memoirs. Tip of the hat to 3 Quarks Daily for pointing us to these articles.

Again. I am baffled. As "a writer, a writer of fiction" why do the labels "autobiography" and "memoir" matter? Is it that fiction doesn't sell as well?

In writing workshops, one of the most common excuses for bad writing goes something like this: "Well, that's the way it happened in real life." And, often, that's why it's bad fiction. Life isn't governed by dramatic structure and narrative tension. Fiction is. That's why we read it.

So, why do we read autobiographies and memoirs? And what does it matter if they contain falsehoods and made-up facts? These things certainly can spice up the drama and tension of an otherwise pedestrian story, I suppose. Maybe we read them for the "there but for the grace of God go I" instruction they offer; a feeling of superiority. Or, maybe—and this seems more likely—we read them for the lurid content of peeping into someone else's private life—kinda' like the reason some people watch Jerry Springer or Ricky Lake or Maury or whichever "Reality show" is the flavor-of-the-month these days: Voyeurism. And that salacious thrill is cheapened if they know we're watching and we actually catch them acting.

Listen to Two Silhouettes on the Shade

No comments: