It's just the intro to an essay I wrote for my creative nonfiction class this past quarter, "The Entitlement of Pretty Girls" (and don't worry -- it was more than just a bashing of the beauties). The point is this whole story that makes up my intro never happened. Well, it did happen, just not in that way. But I decided to write it like this (as if I was there rather than in the bathroom) because this is the way it had to be for me to get my later points across."The coldness overwhelmed us and forced us to move inside on the day my friends and I saw a very pretty girl in the Water Tower Place food court. She was pretty enough to cause all three of us to stare mid-cannoli as she walked out of the elevator, and she was pretty enough for me to remember three weeks from the sighting, but I’m not sure how vividly I’d remember her if it wasn’t for what happened next. We stared at first because she was stunning, and then we kept watching – frozen, affixed, like a bad horror film we couldn’t look away from – as she lifted her foot onto a chair at the table next to ours and continued to text as the boy who was with her bent down to tie her shoelaces. She didn’t even give a glance, not a trace of acknowledgment. In fact, I doubt she was even aware she was with anyone, except when her shoelaces needed tying, of course. Our eyes trailed the two as the girl walked out of the mezzanine with the boy faithfully following behind her, and then my two friends and I stared at each other, gaping, not knowing whether to laugh or, well, what else could we do?"
This issue of truth is something we dealt with a lot in both of my writing classes, fiction and nonfiction. I feel like every writer has their own stance on where the line is drawn between the genres, or if there's a line at all. My nonfiction professor probably sees it as a dotted line: if you would please, sirs and ma'ams, stay within the lines, but you won't get crucified if you cross. Or maybe you will.
Take James Frey, for example. Absolutely torn apart very publicly by America's de facto dictator, Oprah Winfrey. Because in these modern times, when we slap on the terms "memoir" or "nonfiction" it has to be that way, down to whether or not The Brady Bunch was actually on the television during the time of day that author claimed it was on. Um, hello? That wasn't the point! (This actually happened in one of my professor's other classes.) The point is whoever is enough of a lifeless, pompous windbag to point out something like that is completely missing the point. If the writer knows what he's doing (and if he doesn't, then just stop reading), then the choices were made knowingly.
And the mind is fickle. Especially if you're writing something like a memoir, literally "memory" or coming from the memory, the wrong-ness of the details is actually the truth isn't it? The memory and its lack of accuracy is just as real as the experience itself, and in fact, I'd argue it's more real because while that experience affects that person for just that amount of time, it's the memory that remains.
In the end, true, false, real, fake, the truth is that important to people. We spent a few discussions on this idea of truth and what it is, and I just found it really sad and affirming at the same time. God placed this desire, this hunger for what is true at the core of every person, and the intense yearning of the world is affirmation for me that God is in everything. There is truth; He's the truth. And so many people spend their lives determined and lost, when their answer is in the very question they ask.
(photo via pinterest)