Memoirs – I love them.
I love reading memoirs. I also love writing them. This is not news to anyone who knows me.
My favourite memoir is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. She recounts a torturous childhood in great detail and never complains about it. Her book is a celebration of an adventurous life with very alternate parents. It is a story of survival and learning from difficult and often horrific experiences. I thought my childhood was a bit rough in parts, but as I read this book, I realised how good my upbringing had been in comparison to her early years.
Recently, a friend gave me ‘The Glass Castle’ on DVD. I sat it beside my TV, afraid of disappointment. Thoughts flashed inside my head. “The film is never as good as the book.” “This story is too complex to become a film.” “How can child actors possibly portray the children in Wills’ book.” But one stormy evening a couple of weeks ago, I decide to give it a go. It was amazing from start to finish. In no way was I disappointed. Here was a film that was equally as good as the book. Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts and a host of other actors brought this book alive.
I’ve finished writing Two Poofs and a Poodle. It took me years to pen this memoir through Rina’s eyes. She faithfully sat beside me, guiding my words, until her death on the 30th October, 2016. The book was completed weeks after her passing, but it took another year for the editing. Now I search of an agent and publisher to turn this manuscript into a real book.. I have visions of it one day being a film, but we’re all entitled to dream.
Today I saw this pie graph on Twitter and it got me wondering about the reliability of Memoirs. In particular I reflected on “Two Poofs and a Poodle” and wondered if my writing had faithfully recorded Rina’s story.
Had I taken artistic licence? Of course I had. I imagined what Rina was thinking, but I could never know for sure. Did I include misremembered details, dubious memories and disputed facts? Of course I did, but I still tried to remain faithful to Rina’s story. Was much of it verifiably true? Definitely. Friends have read it and remembered the incidents cited.But there was little stretching of the truth, so the pie slices of possible but unlikely, myth-making and bullshit were definitely there as well. And rose-tinted nostalgia? I’m a master at this, so sure enough it can be found in the book. So I’ve fessed up to most of the slices, but I’m not sure about libellous score-settling. I know there was a little bit of this in early drafts, but as I got more into Rina’s voice and it possessed my writing, this was deleted. Rina had no scores to settle.
What about all the memoirs I’ve read. How do they fit the component parts of the pie graph? I’m sure each of them will fit to some extent, but they have all been good reads, and each author’s intention was clearly to retell a pivotal time in their life.
What’s your favourite memoir? Do you have any suggestions to help me find an agent and publisher for Two Poofs and a Poodle?