Sunday, March 09, 2008

made me think

"With a few big exceptions, I don't much care for abreactive or confessional memoirs. I'm not sure how to explain this. There is probably a sound, serious argument to be made about the popularity of confessional memoirs as a symptom of something especially sick and narcissistic/voyeuristic about U.S. culture right now. About certain deep connections between narcissism and voyeurism and the mediated psyche. But this isn't it. I think the real reason is that I just don't trust them. Memoirs/confessionals, I mean. Not so much their factual truth as their agenda. The sense I get from a lot of contemporary memoirs is that they have an unconscious and unacknowledged project, which is to make the memoirist seem as endlessly fascinating and important to the reader as they are to themselves. I find them sad in a way that I don't think their authors intend." (David Foster Wallace, Introduction, The Best American Essays 2007)

Since I am thinking about writing (and beginning to write, really!) that memoir/novel, this opinion struck me. Am I being narcissistic? Is narcissism always necessary to write a memoir? It would be about me after all. Of course, I am not writing some over-the-top thing because, honestly, my life was and isn't over the top (with drugs, crime, family drama, whatever, you know what I mean). But there is a story there. So I think I want to write a good story, whatever form it takes. But I don't think it is about saying, "Look at me! I'm endlessly fascinating and important!" Yeah, that's so me (sarcasm -- I am a rather shy individual.). I know Wallace is not blasting all memoirs, but his harsh words made me think.

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