An indispensable book by writers who have experienced firsthand the rewards and challenges of crafting a memoir
Anyone undertaking the project of writing a memoir knows that the events, memories, and emotions of the past often resist the orderly structure of a book. Inventing the Truth offers wisdom from nine notable memoirists about their process (Ian Frazier searched through generations of family papers to understand his parents' lives), the hurdles they faced (Annie Dillard tackles the central dilemma of memoir: what to put in and what to leave out), and the unexpected joys of bringing their pasts to the page. Featured authors include Russell Baker on Growing Up; Jill Ker Conway on The Road from Coorain; Annie Dillard on An American Childhood; Ian Frazier on Family; Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Colored People; Alfred Kazin on A Walker in the City; Frank McCourt on Angela's Ashes; Toni Morrison on Beloved; and Eileen Simpson on Poets in Their Youth.
The authors do stick to their assignment: Russell Baker credits his huge family with helping him "learn a lot about humanity from close-up observation"; Jill Ker Conway talks about her desire to write a female memoir that was not a romantic happily-ever-after; and Henry Louis Gates Jr. discusses "want[ing] to write a book that imitated the specialness of black culture when no white people are around." But there is also plenty of advice for writers here, and some general thoughts about the genre. Conway addresses the difficulty of "going back as a historian" and trying to understand "all the things you took as a given when you were a child." Gates warns us to "be prepared for the revelation of things you don't even dream are going to come up." And Annie Dillard contemplates the strangeness of spending "more time writing about [a scene or an event] than you did living it." --Jane Steinberg