Thursday, December 8, 2016

Getting to Know You

I once was helping a woman (a Hungarian survivor) with her memoir. Well, what happened was, she wasn't happy with how it was coming out with the writer she had hired, and had called me in to give it a once over. 

I had an advantage simply because I was told plenty of stories of what life was like in Europe prewar, so I made notes when I read passages in the original manuscript that didn't compute. Then I was sent to face the ire of the author. 

"But that's not what happened!" she snapped at Mrs. P., after I tentatively suggested my corrections on discrepancies.

"No, no," Mrs. P. sheepishly demurred. "Um, actually, that's how it did." 

Has it ever happened that practical strangers come up to you and state things about you that aren't true? I have had one or two commenters do that, because they use my blog—the content of which I select to release to the public—as the basis for their conclusions. I am more than my blog, people. 

Readers can confuse memoirs with total reveals; Dani Shapiro's "Pretend You Don't Know Me" gently reminds us otherwise. A book (or an article, or a blog post) is not the same as verbally sharing memories or thoughts. Assuming that a memoir (or blog) contains all intimate information there is to know is a fallacy. 

I often pretend I don't know someone. If on a date, I wouldn't cut off his story of his trip to Iceland because not only would that mean confessing to cyber stalking, but that would be preventing my getting to know who he is. I know part of the story, not all, and I would really like to hear all the bits and pieces.   

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