Is this what these stories I write here are? These little stories that I collect—at least in part—the way they make me notice my life and live it more fully, the way they help me make sense of this world? And if so, if this is what I am recording here—one five hundred word post at a time—then Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd will help me do it better.
To place yourself on the page is in part self-discovery, in part self-creation. The act feels like what a lump of clay must feel like to the hands of a sculptor…Writers want to be engaging, and it is easy to try to purchase charm at the expense of honesty, but the ultimate charm lies in getting the face more right than pretty. (pp. 51)
…To make sense of your life or a portion of it is to tell a story, and story often stands at odds with the ferment in which you have lived. That’s one point of a story: to replace confusion with sense. The impulse of memoir is itself a fictive impulse…when the facts seem insufficient…maybe that’s the time to forsake memoir and write a novel….(pp.54, 58)
I want you to feel what I felt, O’Brien writes. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth. (pp. 59)
- · Say difficult things. Including difficult facts.
- · Be harder on yourself tan you are on others.
- · Try to accept the fact that you are, in company with everyone else, in part a comic figure.
- · Stick to the facts. (pp.54)
…If you can go back to the source and see your memories whole, you can crate truer versions of what you remember. You tell the stories as accurately and artfully as your abilities allow. If you succeed, you replace the fragments of memory with something that has its own shape and meaning, a separate thing that has value in itself. The past becomes an assertion that your life is of the present and the future.
On Wednesdays, we’re discussing Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd’s book Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction. Next week we’ll discuss chapter three: Memoirs.