When we read memoir, or journalism, because it is “true” it is not happening to us. In reading fiction it happens to us, and keeps happening to us after we are finished with our reading, because it is not “true.” We are not precluded from its truth. The muscle of metaphor is transformative, interpersonal, complete [unifying]. The apprehension of experience via metaphor is a completion [unifying]. She “walked, then rode in a daze, still not quite free of the dog [she] had killed.” “I had felt it die, and yet I had not died.” There is a technical, writerly shaped hole in this parable.
And then there is the tripe of relateability. I’m sorry, the trope. The shallow idea, currently ruling acquisition decisions at Big Five publishing houses, that we like to read memoirs, listen to true stories, because we can “relate,” because something like that has happened to us or we are “like” this person whose true story we read. More insidiously, that fictions must repeat back to us our familiar contexts in order for us to wish to buy them. The shallowness of simile over metaphor.
Self-narratives are normalizations of selfhood, reifications of the discontinuity between one self and one other self through capital investment – the value of the self as distinct content producer.
I am not a writer because I assume that my life is so snowy, so flakey, that I will entertain others with those stories in their various forms, or that the qualities that they are imbued with need or deserve to be shared for their uniqueness.
If the writing in a book is such that it moves the heart, stimulates the intellect, and enlivens the spirit, we can conclude that it is a work of literature –
Period – and as such is entitled to make its own laws.
~ Rebecca Wolff
(from: “Our Love of True Stories Has Destroyed Our Sense of Truth”)