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.