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mgz24's picture

A set format

In our last small group meeting we talked a lot about the set format that exists in academic writing, and why that is.  We said that there are selection pressures on those papers and that they need to be in that set format to remain as objective as possible, so that they will be accepted and respected in their given academic field.  This made me think about memoirs, and in particular the memoirs that have in the recent past been outed as fiction.  A Million Little Pieces and 3 Cups of Tea were both highly respected, immensely popular memoirs that were later proved to be fiction.  The uproar surrounding both of these stories was not about the writing style, or the stories that were told, but rather that fictional stories were portrayed to be true.  This made me think a bit about whether or not these cases were caused because of a selection pressure.  This new type of memoir is (it seems to me at least) written in the style of a fictional novel, versus the more traditional autobiography.  Maybe now, in order to tell your own story in an enticing way you can't write in a dry factual way.  This too then begs the question of whether we will end up questioning all memoirs.  There are undoubtedly many more memoirs that have been factual than fictitious, but the ones we hear about are the fictitious ones.  Then going in a different direction, why did these authors feel the need to call the stories they created memoirs rather than novels.  Would they have been less popular had they been novels? Would they have been less popular if they came out originally as stories that were partially based on real events? I tend to think that in these times we just have the need for a story that doesn't really happen in real life.  Even in movies that are based on true events, the movies always add in twists and turns that tweak the reality a little.  I think that as readers we want to read something that can take us away from our own lives, but that can also be possible.  This means that the classification of a memoir is enticing because it happened to someone else, so it could feasibly in some life happen to us.  I think that this could perhaps be the selection pressure that is acting to popularize memoirs and pressuring authors to tweak their own stories to make them more extraordinary, yet still feasible enough to label them a memoir. 


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