Wednesday, April 2, 2008

memoirs, real and imagined

Truth can be stranger than fiction. The more I tried to write fiction, the more this became obvious. Depends, of course, on who is doing the living. So I’ve been reading memoirs and contrasting, especially as it is such a big market.

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why so many fake ones were coming out. All the hype around this very real tragic story, reviews and profiles, sorrow and redemption – and then it’s all fake! It happened recently with this woman who claimed to grow up in a LA street gang, half Native American. She was profiled in the Times and I paid attention, as she was also now living in Eugene, Oregon of all places. It turned out to be all a scam.

The plight of JT Leroy was perhaps the most notorious. And now the writer, a middle aged woman who (I guess) could not sell her incredible story as a novel must now pay thousands because she tricked so many people into thinking it was all real.

Why is “reality” so much more interesting and marketable than fiction? Is it because the reader will eat more readily the sweat and sorrow you actually – supposedly! – sewed?

One memoir was recommended to me because it was based in wild and weird San Francisco and therefore, I might relate. Well, Everyone into the Pool begins with an account around the family dinner table, straight out of Ozzie and Harriet, where everybody’s happy nowadays – with the Mom wondering if it’s really true that so many people out there actually had, gosh, unhappy childhoods.

The author Beth Lisick indeed seems to have had a perfect one, cheerleader and prom queen to boot. But oh, she bravely tosses that mundane happiness all aside to pretend to be queer in SF, sow wild seeds and experiment, to eventually discover that she is indeed straight and lives to tell the tale.

- Actually, I am just projecting from a book jacket, because after reading two or three pages, I became kinda nauseous and could read no more. It’s not all that “brave” or even funny to me, her tripping down the Wild Side, as I knew so many who had no choice. The reviews refer to her living in "squalor" as if this is fodder for a sitcom.

Choice is an operative word here in several ways: it speaks of class, but also alludes to being compelled, as opposed to having another cheap holiday in other people’s misery.

The dinner table at Ozzie and Harriet’s is one I can only describe from the TV set. How about dope dealers moving in with a greatest generation republican mom much their elder (who never does, oddly enough, change her vote) - young enough, in fact, to be wanting to fuck you almost as much as her, loading you up with four finger lids to sell at your high school. It all only moves into a slow decline when the FBI finally show up at the house and mom is now having me bury sixteen pot plants. And in a hurry. Hopefully they won't find the LSD tabs in the freezer. Let’s just say that being prom queen never entered my mind.

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