Monday, May 18, 2015

A Few Seconds

I love this quote from an interview with Kevin Brockmeier about his recent memoir (previously mentioned on this blog): A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: a Memoir of Seventh Grade - 

I hope it's not graceless to say that while I was writing the book I also read a pair of memoirs that I found dissatisfyingly sterile or lazy in very specific (and fundamentally opposite) ways: negative examples. One of them was carefully and deliberately composed and seemed wholly faithful to the facts of the writer's life, but failed to offer anything like the lived experience of those facts, and the other was brimming with the lived experience of its writer's life, and was probably faithful to the facts, but was very poorly crafted — passionate, but at the expense of some vibrancy or precision in the phrasing. I did my best to avoid those shortcomings.

So many people focus on "how did you remember all that?!" And instead Brockmeier says the importance for him is emotional resonance. Read more here:

And another couple of quotes, from a different interview, where he more directly addresses questions about his book being on the edge between fiction and  memoir:

While I was working on the book, I found myself describing it interchangeably as either a memoir that employed the tactics of a novel or a novel that employed the tactics of a memoir—and, in fact, the version of the manuscript I submitted to my editor came with a long string of subtitles: a memoir, a novel, a recollective, a nonfiction novel, an autobiographical novel, a novel from life, a kind of memoir, a memoir-novel-thing, and, finally, what is this? True, I organized the book around one particular year of my life, and I tried hard to remain faithful to the way I actually experienced that year, but my stance toward the material was certainly peculiar, and behaving as though your past is unspooling before your senses in all its color and specificity is as much an act of creation as it is of recollection, don’t you think?

I suppose I would say that both memoir and nonfiction attempt to convey the truth, stripped of fabrication, but that memoir is in part about imaginingthe truth and that most other forms of nonfiction are simply about telling the truth. I’m sure there are other distinctions to be drawn, even contradictory ones, but that’s what writing A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip felt like for me: a sustained act of imagining my way into the truth.

That second interview is here:

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