Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Autobiography of Someone Else

After re-reading Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid, it's tempting to say that any autobiography is the story of someone else. Even our inner other.
Who you are is a mystery no one can answer, not even you. -Jamaica Kincaid
And yet this persual, this perusal of our memories, exploring what we recall and how we have and will cast and re-cast our past, is worth something. Perhaps it shows us just as much as anything else how constructed the self is. Self is story, made of story.
The self is a perpetually rewritten story. - Jerome Bruner
And yet what do we construct, deconstruct, reconstruct this self based upon? Memory.
...yet a memory cannot be trusted, for so much of the experience of the past is determined by the experience of the present. - Jamaica Kincaid
In other words, memory is what we think of the past, not some preserved, separate item. Most researchers say that while a "pure clear" feeling memory seems to be the most unadulterated one, those, too, are subject to the whims of interpretation (for instance, in The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van der Kolk).

So why write memoir? Personal essay? Autobiography?

For the journey. To ask the unanswerable. To see how we make a self, and how easily that self is  both demystified and remystified. Because the past and present are interdependent, but so is the future.

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