Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hampl and Frey's use of fabrication

Many times when we’re trying to write a scene, we’ll invent details to help pull everything together or fill any gaps from our memories. We can’t remember every little detail of a situation, but we understand what it takes to complete a scene. But we’ll also combine memories into one event, despite some details not happening until before, later, or in a different order. Hampl shows this in her piano lesson sketch by explaining that she didn’t use that particular red book until much later, and she mentions how she wasn’t sure if her father’s violin playing was the result of her piano lessons, or vice versa. She explains how we’ll combine details to make a scene work, and only through revision and further introspection can we realize our fabrications. Then we can begin to order our memories and decide whether it is acceptable or inappropriate to use fabrications of smaller details to finish a scene.

She suggests that memoirs help to make sense of our lives. Without writing about our own life, we don’t have one, and reflection helps us understand what happened and notice things we may not have previously when we experienced events. She says, “Memoir seeks a permanent home for feeling and image, a habitation where they can live together.” It is also a way for us to accomplish things we may not have been able to before, such as the subordinate relationship Hampl has with her peer. The experiences are the same, but the feelings and retrospection of certain events can portray a different scenario than what may have been felt the first time. It’s not lying, just a different way to view an event. It’s a way to write down feelings and reactions from situations as accurately as possible with memory. This won’t have a bias on it due to political responsibilities, just an account. However, because of the use of fabrications, the memoirs should only be approached with a grain of salt. Despite that, her suggestions are valuable for memoir writers and I will probably resort to our class readings when deciding how I should approach my own memoir, should I write it.

As a journalist, I’d like to say that everything in a memoir must absolutely be factually accurate. However, unless the writer as a photographic memory and can remember small details, it’s not possible to have everything accurate. There are certain details that are needed to complete a scene, and because most of us cannot remember those details, we have to fabricate them. But we’re not completely fabricating, we’re making an informed decision about what details were probably there. We do this based off other memories of different times, or a general understanding of family or surroundings from whatever time we’re writing about. So, everything should be as close to factually accurate as possible, but not everything will be.
Most people understand the nature of memory. There is an unspoken contract between writer and reader that what is in the memoir will be as close to the truth as possible, but people understand that not all the details will be. However, readers do except scenes and situations to have actually happened, and will feel betrayed or misled if they find out otherwise. They will also understand that sometimes people don’t want their stories told, or that their secrets may be detrimental to that person if revealed. In that case, I think people would understand if names were changed to protect someone in real life. As long as the situations and story doesn’t change from the name, then what’s a name? It wouldn’t matter.

If I bought any of the memoirs outside of class and then found out that some stories in Karr and Frey’s works were lies, then I would lose trust in them and wouldn’t purchase any other works by them. I would also probably take the books to Good Will to be rid of them. But I wouldn’t sell them back. I believe in a buyer’s responsibility for purchases. If you bought it, if you read it, then you shouldn’t sell it back just because of disappointment. I can understand why others would want to, but I wouldn’t.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hughes's "Salvation"

Hughes incorporates man vs. society and man vs. self in his essay “Salvation.” He also includes rising and falling action, showing the conflict and resolution of the event.

To begin, Hughes uses man vs. society because of the expectation he feels from the fellow church members. Expectation had been building for weeks for a revival, during which time the children would be invited to join the “fold.” In addition to the “preaching, singing, praying, and shouting,” his aunt had spoken of it days beforehand. Then, he’s ushered to the front row of the church with the other children, in front of everyone else in the church. So instead of melding into the throng, they’re on display.

When he expects to see Jesus’s light, but then doesn’t feel or see anything, the conflict is enhanced by adding man vs. self. The rest of the children are standing up in their own time, either immediately or eventually. Soon, it’s down to just Hughes and another boy. Hughes is truthfully waiting to experience Jesus, but is fully aware of time slipping by and the group’s expectations. He keeps repeating, “It was very hot in the church, and it was getting late.” Older members are kneeling in front of him to pray fervently for him salvation. His aunt comes and kneels to cry over at his knees. The whole congregation was praying for just him in the end. He wanted to truthfully see Jesus, but he also wanted all the attention off him. He faced the pressure of succumbing to society’s expectations, but to do so he would have to lie to them and, in a way, to God… in a church.

Throughout all this, Hughes incorporates rising and falling action with the church’s noise and heat. The shouts and prayers and singing and rocking all build until he stands, then everything hushes. In the beginning, the readers see an explanation of events and building tension. The essay ends with silence during a cool night. Then Hughes is the one crying, but for not seeing Jesus. He also faces the prospect of continuing the lie to his aunt, who believes his tears are because of his salvation, and dealing with his inner turmoil of lying and lack of “proper” salvation.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Karr's The Liar's Club

Blog 5

I don’t typically read memoirs, and to be honest I wouldn’t have picked this one up. There’s just something about them that doesn’t appeal to me. Many people experience poor childhoods with insecure family members in dry and dangerous environments. I guess it’s all about how you write the people involved or the memories you experienced…

I would have difficulty writing about another’s personal issues. I was once writing a Mary-Sue Harry Potter fanfiction and wanted to use my parents names in it for the first chapter. My step-father was ardently against it and refused to let me. He didn’t want people on the internet reading about him. For the people I don’t like or treated me poorly, I might not have much of a problem. But for people I care for, I’d be afraid of outing them about something or writing a scene that was supposed to remain secret. Changing names is one thing for national readers, but for local readers or those who are somehow connected to me or the situations, those people would see through the names and figure out who I was writing about. Then, it’s no different from using the actual name, and those are the people that the initial ones probably want to avoid. I suppose, then, it would depend on what I was writing about in order to decide if I would include someone or that person’s real name.

If, however, the people were no longer around, then any personal story, like the cutting story, would help shape the person’s character. It would help readers to understand who the person was. With Karr’s method of altering stories, we can still infer who the people were because each story at least had a grain of truth to them. Those are the easiest lies to accept. In term of literary qualities, Karr uses at least two: scope and intent, and voice. The Liar’s Club illustrates scope and intent because it shows all the conflicts and problems she faced in her childhood and how she dealt with them, which both helped her develop a sense of self as she grew. She also works with voice, because she shifts between an adult voice and that of a child’s within a paragraph or less, showing both how she spoke then and her mentality at the time, then contrasting it with the overall adult narration.

If I was considering writing a memoir, it’d contain personal information. I would cross a line within myself, and there’d be no going back. I’m sure there are a number of lines that I’d draw, but if I put myself outside of myself, detached permanently, I might be able to write about anything. The problem there is that even if I’m capable of detaching during the writing process, people will continue to make me relive the events in public during book readings or interviews. It’s one thing to speak to anonymous people on the page, it’s another to face them in public readings or TV/radio interviews. They aren’t as anonymous then, nor would I be. The author would have a face and voice instead of just words.