Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I read this article in the NY Times yesterday. Yet another person has made up bits of an ostensibily true memoir, confessed that it was actually made up (or at least parts were, parts which happen to be the most interesting), and ultimately got the publication of their book cancelled. The need to fabricate fascinates me. Obviously, I'm quite a fan of myth and story telling. Fiction is great. However, it's the need to pretend that something is true, no matter how completely implausible that something may be (tossing apples over the fence into Buchenwald, for instance. Perhaps it is that hindsight is twenty/twenty, since I'm coming to the story knowing that it was made up, but there is no way that would happen, without the girl getting caught and extremely punished by the Nazis.)

It's interesting that had these false memoir authors marketed their work as fiction originally (as do many writers who write novels based on their experiences), no one would so much as bat an eye at the fact that they actually only spent several hours in prison or actually met their wife after surviving the concentration camps. I suppose that is the beauty of fiction--it allows one to create (and create would be the important word here) a situation that others will respond to, that others will (I hate to say it) be touched by, without the risk of being viewed as a liar, since it is the writer's job to create a truth through a falsity. And yet, there is no worry because the piece is already presented as a product of the author's imagination (or if you want to get all decon/post-structuralist, the piece is a product of itself). When the piece is presented as showing the truth through the truth, well then, things fall apart when it actually becomes known to be fake.

I'm a huge fan of the ideas of the death of the author, of there being nothing but the text. But the recurrence of falsified memoirs seems to prove such to be inaccurate. There may be just the text itself, but quite clearly, we as a culture want there to be an author, we want there to be something producing the text, something to back it up. There seems to be no more truth from tale. Or else we wouldn't care so much when the author turned out to be a sham, when the text turned out to be false. On the other hand, we also want to present truth, although what truth is seems to be getting more and more uncertain.

There's some sort of theatrical piece lying there in the human need to fake it (and also in the human need to have something extraordinary be actually true). This idea is in its infancy. And I hope no one reads this and thinks, aha! And then makes a piece without letting me know. My tendency of late is to bury myself in research, and then the research takes over and the piece never gets done or even written. Past experience proves that just sitting and writing lets the piece come out, sometimes accidentally, as in the case of TC, my adaptation of the Troilus and Cressida story. I'd been toying with the idea of adapting the Shakespeare play, did some research, stared at Fifty Days at Ilium for several hours, then a few months later, started writing something that I thought totally unrelated to the story. Upon finishing, I realized it was the story, just in a different form.

I've also been toying with the idea of a performance piece centered around revenge. My favorite song of late is the Decemberist's Mariner's Revenge Song, about a man seeking revenge on the rake who left his mother with gambling debts, ultimately leading to her losing her mind and dying. As yet, I'm not sure what other kinds of revenge stories to include, though I know that I want the structure to be short stories, mostly movement based.

That's it for ideas for now. I wonder if I bounce from project to idea to project too easily, never actually bringing anything to fruition. I operate with the mindset that things need to find their time and place, and that some ideas were never meant to make it. Perhaps in the new year I will make a list of ideas/projects that I should finish and then actually do that.