Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I just finished reading David Sedaris' new book, When You Are Engulfed In Flames. It got me thinking about the art of autobiography, and how even when we set out to write the truth about ourselves, it is sometimes still fiction.

For example, my mother and I were emailing back and forth the other day, and we somehow landed on the topic of pet goldfish. My mother asked, "do you remember Chewbacca and the other goldfish you had when you were in Kindergarten?"

I responded that while I remembered Chewbacca, I did not remember having other goldfish. I then told her that in my recollection, Chewbacca was "suicidal" but managed to survive several jumps out of his bowl. She, on the other hand, did not remember this at all. In her memory, I had Chewie and another goldfish at the same time, and nothing dramatic ever happened. So which of us is right? Is either of us right?

Here's another example, from probably about that same time. I distinctly remember my uncle Tim getting mad at me for being annoying, and tying me upside-down to a post on my grandmother's front porch. Uncle Tim doesn't remember this at all, but Uncle Bob does--in his memory, he AND Tim got annoyed with me and conspired to tie me to the porch. So why do I remember one uncle tying me up so vividly, but not the other? And why does one uncle remember it, but not the other? Also in question is the length of time I hung from the porch. I recall it being HOURS, but Bob says I was just up there a few minutes before they took me down because I was wailing and attracting attention from the neighbors.

So to all those who criticize and question the truth behind the memoirs of the likes of David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, etc.--who's to say what you remember is true either? Just sit back, relax and enjoy the tale.

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