Memory, Truth, and Lying

I too found this week’s readings slightly difficult to understand and follow. In every article the author wrote his/her own thoughts about truth and lying; I got a little bit lost after reading the words “truth” so repeatedly in every article that I confused each author’s idea on the subject together.

Here are a few major points that struck me as interesting… Montaigne drew a connection between memory and lying. Whether a lie is completely fabricated or somewhat modified from a known truth, neither can last long because they both would inevitably fail to latch onto the liar’s mind as a true memory would. The lies would expose themselves through interrogating because the liar just can’t remember lies as vividly as they would genuine memories, i.e., the truth. In Bacon’s essay, he disapproves of lying but pointed out that people have a natural tendency to enjoy lies, for they trigger the imagination (they are like diamonds/carbuncles with facets that shine beautifully under varied lights).

On the other hand, Hampl’s piece about memoir frankly acknowledged that many details in her short piano memoir were, well, from invention/flourished by imagination – something Bacon and Montaigne had disdain for. However, for Hampl, writing this first draft was merely a process to self-discovery. By patching her memory with imagination she learned more about herself  (such as realizing she had always yearned for a red Thompson book when she wrote , or “lied” that she owned one). Had she not written down these “lies”, she would’ve never learned these many aspects of herself. Through lying and invention on paper, she came closer to truth.

Last week we grappled with the idea of honesty, and I struggled with understanding what it meant to be honest in my own writing because I often find myself in Hampl’s situation – many truths/memories I put on paper often seemed faulty/falsified.  It is comforting to know that many writers (even Hampl, a professional memoirist!) struggled through this process, and that this process is actually the first step/the road to self-discovery.

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One Response to Memory, Truth, and Lying

  1. I really agree with your post in regard to Hampl’s justification of fabrication in personal writing. I feel that it is so unlikely to have a complete memory about an event (especially from one’s own childhood), that to hold on strictly to the idea of not making up anything could really harm the overall impact of the piece. Hampl emphasizes that if a memory is not complete due to forgetfulness, it is important to use one’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Not only does this create a cohesive story, but also allows the writer to learn about themselves (how they think of themselves and their own desires). I really like that you highlighted this point in your last paragraph, because I think it is a very good one. For example, Nester quotes James Frey as having said: “My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience.” I think that the discovery that he portrayed himself incorrectly ended up being very telling for Frey. It shows that he is not completely happy and comfortable with himself, and that he has not been completely honest with himself about that. For him, this may have been an eye-opening experience about his self-perception, and served to help him better know himself and his flaws.

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