Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fiction vs. Memoir

Margaret B Jones (real name: Margaret Seltzer) is the latest memoir writer to come clean about some fabrications in her book, Love and Consequences. Turns out Seltzer took inspiration from the lives of people she knew and pretended those moments were her own. Several authors have come under fire in regards to this issue (you had to be living under a rock not to hear about Oprah's throning and dethroning of James Frey).

Memoir is a difficult genre. Is it memoir if you are truly writing about yourself, yet you make up some of the dialogue you just can't remember from age 5? Or, maybe that in turn makes your story fiction?

Two of my favorite books, Shannon Olson's Welcome to My Planet and Children of God Go Bowling, are strongly based on her life. Yet, because a few fictional elements are included, the books are considered fiction. I heard Olson speak once after her first book came out. Being mostly about her struggle to find love, her book could also be thought of as a little hopeless - thought it's hilarious at the same time. For this reason, her editor suggested Olson give readers hope by putting some sort of happy love moment near the end. So she did - but it didn't really happen to her. And her book is fiction. For good reason?

What are your thoughts? Can memoir take any liberties?
Do you have a favorite memoir? Do you question any of its content?

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I think it is perfectly fine. Honestly, I think it's silly that people even care. Nothing about life is really that interesting without embellishment. Whenever a book is created out of real life events, it is already distorted to fit some narrative structure, so what's the difference.