As a memoir reader, I don’t expect a verbatim transcript of conversations or an exact recount of events. Time has a way of shading one’s memories of discussions and events. I do, however, expect that the author has been faithful to the essence of the depicted conversations and events (identifying names and details not withstanding). That is, a memoir should not be fiction cloaked in the wrappings of the non-fiction label.
Recently, I have started to pay careful attention to the disclaimers in memoirs. Disclaimers are interesting reading. One author’s disclaimer of “composite” characters was a deal breaker for me. While I appreciated the author’s disclosure, I consider made up characters to exist solely in the realm of fiction. In contrast, author Julie Powell’s disclaimer in Cleaving beautifully described the shadings in her memoir:
"It’s the memoirist’s privilege to tell her version of a many-faceted story; and any one facet may necessarily be incomplete, fractured or polished to a sheen that the original stuff of experience didn’t possess. Cleaving is a book that is faithful to my heart, but occasionally fuzzy on the odd physical detail. Other participants in the events recounted in these pages undoubtedly remember things differently; from them and from the reader, I ask for a bit of patience and understanding."
For an artful disclaimer that respects her readers, I salute you Julie Powell!
I'm a reader/commuter in the DC Metro Area. My daily commute to work provides me with ample time to do what I love most: read! Whether its chick lit, literature, memoirs or other non fiction you can always find me with a book.
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