Thursday, August 22, 2013

Memoir is Cannibalizing

Annie Dillard
This is a powerful quote from Annie Dillard, from the collection of essays on memoir edited by William Zinsser called Inventing the Truth, The Art and Craft of Memoir. It is so provocative I almost have nothing to say about it.
My advice to memoir writers is to embark upon a memoir for the same reason that you would embark on any other book: to fashion a text. Don't hope in a memoir to preserve your memories. If you prize your memories as they are, by all means avoid - eschew - writing a memoir. Because it is a certain way to lose them. You can't put together a memoir without cannibalizing your own life for parts. The work battens on your memories. And it replaces them.
Such a powerful passage. She goes on to say that it is because you spend so much time crafting the text - often more time than you spent in the actual experience - that in the end, like a photograph of a situation, you recall more the text than the experience. Really, I suggest reading the whole essay, and the whole book, but at least Dillard's essay, which is linked here.

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