uit het boek van Mary Karr
So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. – Ernest Hemingway, A moveable feast
A memoirist starts with events, then derives meaning from them. In this, memoir purports to grow more organically from lived experience.
Truth is not their enemy. It’s the bannister they grab for when feeling around on the dark cellar stairs. It’s the solution.
No matter how self-aware you are, memoir wrenches at your insides precisely because it makes you battle with your very self – your neat analyses and tidy excuses.
For the reader, the voice has to exist from the first sentence.
Or is it the truer a book, the better the voice?
As Philip Larkin once said of poetry’s slot machine, you put the penny of attention into it, pull a handle, and a feeling comes out.
Whoever believes the least wins, because he’ll never be found wrong.
Interiority – that kingdom the camera never captures – makes a book readable.
The better memoirist organizes a life story around that aforementioned inner enemy – a psychic struggle against herself that works like thread or plot engine.
Inside herself to where things matter and mean.
Why does the act of writing generate so much anxiety? Margaret Atwood says, ‘The written word is so much like evidence – like something that can be used against you.’ I used to think that autobiography was a form of weakness, and perhaps I still do. But I also think that, if you’re weak, it’s childish to pretend to be strong.
It strikes me now as twee to call ‘Father’ the man who’d never been anything but daddy. Too Sylvia Plath to call him Daddy, I figured.
As Elizabeth Hardwick told Robert Lowell before he invented confessional poetry, ‘Why not just say what happened.’
Everything I’ve ever written started out: I am sad. The end. By Mary Karr.
In memoir the heart is the brain.
For pretty much everybody, getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle.
Undeniable facets both of self and story.
Maybe it takes a lifetime to get used to occupying your own body, writer or no. Self-deceit is the bacterium affecting every psyche to varying degrees, especially in youth. We like to view ourselves a certain way.
We want to be who we’re not.
Writing the real self seldom seems original enough when you first happen on it.
Lying is done with words, but also with silence. – Adrienne Rich
Like everybody, I suppose, people we loved broke our hearts because only they had access to them.
For most [memoirists I know], knowing the truth matters more than how they come off telling it.
The act of rape on an eight-year-old body is a matter of the needle giving because the camel can’t. The child gives, because the body can and the mind of the violator cannot. I thought I had died. – Maya Angelou, I know why the caged bird sings
Memoir can compete against the pyrotechnics of visual imagery in film and TV only by excelling where those media fail: writing a deeper moment from inside it.
You’re looking for that inner enemy.
We’re not just responsible for all we do, but for all we see, too. This frees us from blaming or judging anybody.
Trying to wring some truth from the godawful mess of a single life.