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Friday, May 4, 2007 10:35 am
At Last, a Solution to the Problem of Memoirs
Posted by: Keir Graff

Thinking more about the whole truth-in-memoir conundrum, I’ve come up with the following idea: if a book is called a memoir, let’s assume that, like memory, it’s not to be trusted. Enjoyed, possibly, but not viewed as documentary evidence.

If an author is writing in the first-person and they do want us to trust the veracity of their facts, they’ll have to use footnotes that prove their claims can be verified by another party. (Or, if they don’t want their prose to look like that of David Foster Wallace, endnotes.)

Easy peasy.



2 Responses to “At Last, a Solution to the Problem of Memoirs”
  1. Likely Stories » Blog Archive » Good Writing? Got to Be Fiction Says:

    [...] Last week, Publishers Weekly (”Separating Fact and Fiction in the U.S., Europe,” by Rüdiger Wischenbart) examined the European solution to the problem of memoirs: put them in the fiction section. At the risk of being accused yet again of pandering to Europe, I have to say that this is starting to make sense to me. Not least because it allows us to enjoy some wonderfully Gallic explanations: Nobody had any doubt about the veracity of Grass’s account—that is, Peeling the Onion was clearly not another Grass novel, despite his occasional and seemingly willful blurring of fact and fiction. Yet when the book instantly got on the bestseller list, it was listed as “fiction,” in accord with the general practice in most of Europe. But why is that the case? In France, it is “the literary character and the novelistic dimension which define a work as ‘fiction,’” explained Fabrice Piault, deputy editor-in-chief of the book trade magazine Livres Hebdo. [...]

  2. Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online » 2008 » March » 04 Says:

    [...] Seriously, although a number of people have proposed solutions to the problem of memoirs, how many more faked and flawed memoirs will have to be exposed before publishers come to some consensus about how the category is to be treated? [...]

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