Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Whose story

mkarol's picture

 While reading the excerpt from Patricia Hampl's book, what stuck out the most to me was: "For the memoirist, more than for the fiction writer, the story seems already accomplished and fully achieved in history ("in reality", as we naively say)".

It suggests that what makes a memoir nonfiction is that the writer is telling their story rather than a story. Since in theory everything a memoirist writes has already happened, and their experiences are specific to only themselves, a reader is forced to take every recorded event as fact. But, as it's stated in Faction Discourse, there is a "fictionality of reality", which I think stresses the idea that any account of someone's experiences, including those recorded in a memoir, are subject to the bias and partiality of the individual, and twisting what may be "the truth", and therefore "nonfiction", into something maybe just a fraction less factional. 

Comments

veritatemdilexi's picture

Is Memoir "travel writing"?

 My favorite statement of Patricia Hampl's "I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory and Imagination" is "Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred." (37)  The power of the memoir, in my opinion, is that the writer has the power to recount the thoughts and feelings that they were feeling at the time of the event and how this has shaped their current lives.  Hampl's struggle with truthfully depicting the first piano is an example of how we all cloud our memories with other life experiences, almost as an attempt to corroborate our own stories to justify our feelings.  

"Texts Without Context" is well researched description of modern digital culture.  While Michiko Kakutani includes a variety of opinions, i.e. those who want to abolish copyright laws, those who believe that celebrity is a new "art", the tone of the article is one that is fearful of the current digital age.  The most interesting piece of the article was Calib Crains description of "groupiness, where people read mainly 'for the sake of a feeling of belonging' rather than for personal enlightenment or amusement." (5-6)

ckosarek's picture

Meaning over fact? Can meaning be fact?

 Perhaps the goal of memoir nonfiction is not to tell a "true" story at all, but to relay a cohesive truth that represents humanity collectively. Hampl states that, "[w]e must acquiesce to our experience and our gift to transform experience into meaning" (32), suggesting that meaning has far greater weight and trustworthiness than personal anecdotes. Because we have to accept that any personal account of an event is colored with perception, maybe the "truth" of a nonfiction work is not a cut-and-dry account of what happened on such-and-such a date, but rather the implication of personal perception as applied to a greater audience. 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
2 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.