Adhara Haque-Truth, Memories and Lies

I found this week’s reading very interesting. They all revolved around the topics of lying, truth and memory, which are all important qualities in writing the personal essay. I think reading their perspectives of those topics opened my eyes as well.

Montaigne’s Of Liars mentions a lot on memories relating to lies. He published a book called “essais” which means to try in French.  Plato called a memory, “a powerful goddess.” Montaigne mentioned that individuals who talk about memory “push their narrative so far back and load it with such pointless circumstances, that if the story is good they smother its goodness.” (10) I agree with this statement because sometimes recalling a memory becomes a story at the end that is exaggerated. Some people keep changing, details of a story that it is too much sometimes. Montaigne also mentioned that liars either invent everything or disguise and alter things. At the end these memoirs are just plain lies. The author also believes that “lying is an accursed vice.” (12) Once someone starts lying constantly it is tough to stop. “Once the tongue has been put on this wrong track, it cannot be called back without amazing difficulty.” (12) Lying is horrible especially when it is unintentional.

Francis Bacon’s Of Truth was focused on truth and how precious it is. Bacon mentions a lot of philosophers of the older ages and using their ideas to explain his point. Bacon was surprised that people lie more than telling the truth. I also agree that some people find laws pleasurable and cherish illusions that individuals make up for themselves and others around them. I really liked when Bacon compared truth to a lie. He said that truth was like a pearl which was best in the day light whereas a lie was like a diamond which was only best seen in dim candle lights. Bacon thinks that the highest pleasure in life is truth and I agree with him. Why have a life full when you can live a great life of truth? In his writing Bacon also mentions Montaigne. He mentions how Montaigne said that a man who tells a lie is afraid of men but not of God. This brings the topic of faith and how lying is seen as a sin.

Patricia Hampl’s Memory and Imagination piece brought a lot of insight into my mind as well. She brings about a lot of good points on writing. She starts off the piece by talking about her first piano recital and how she recalls it happening. She is very honest and admits that she knows that some of the details of her memoir are fabricated. A lot of memories are altered with time. She wanted to be accurate when telling her story but she admits that it wasn’t. Hampl mentions how memory is something she invented in her head. Memories that recall stories change along the way. She stated that, “memory inevitably leads to invention.” (24) This is similar to what Montaigne mentioned about memoirs and inventing things. She realized that she had told a number of lies after finishing her vignette. Hampl also mentions that the value of images in our memories is lost over time. I can say this is true since there were many instances that I tried to recall something and soon I would realize that the details weren’t accurate, as I wanted them to be. We will always end up using our imagination and inventing stories. She also mentions that a memoir is “travel writing” where you show and tell. It isn’t a guide because we the writer has to guide themselves as well as survive, wander, seek and learn more. I really liked her analogy of a memoir. Hampl connected memories with lying and imagination.

Daniel Nester’s Notes on Frey was quite fascinating as well. James Frey was a lying memoirist and this writing was all the lies and views on Frey and his writing. A memoir is a faulty memory where the writer, which is Frey, in this case lies throughout. Nester said, “The writer not only leis about what is said but also provides the exact words for that lie.” (120) Many details of Frey’s memoir was exaggerated, there was a point where he mentioned that he was in jail for three months which was only three hours in reality. “A memoir is a story taken directly from the raw material of a writer’s own life and shaped into a piece of experience that can hold meaning for the disinterested reader.” (125) This shows how many authors add different details to make their memoir interesting to the reader. They are changing the entire truth into a lie and this is how they embellish their work just like what Montaigne mentioned. “Writers will always have the desire to imitate and transform, not simply record, real life.” (132) I agree with that statement because I feel like nowadays writers do not write to show the truth anymore but please the reader and tell them the story they want to hear. This piece also compares lying with memory just like Hampl. Memory does soon lead to lies especially when writing a memoir where the writer has to think of the audience as well.

Graham’s The Essay mentions a lot on the essay. He mentions how “you don’t take a position and defend it. You notice a door that’s ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what’s inside.” (174) I think this was a clever saying. Writing shouldn’t just be about the facts and proving something, it should be more than that. Graham mentioned how the essay needs to express ideas and a “search for truth.” I think this is crucial since so many other authors have mentioned how writing memories end up being lies since over time details are changed, hidden, deleted, added on to, etc.

I honestly believe that writing should just be the truth and only the truth. I think it is important to be able to express one self and not worry about the audience’s pleasure. Truth is what makes a story stick out. Little details that are from the heart are what bring an essay or any writing to life for the reader. I understand that over time memories can be altered in one’s head but its always important to be true to one’s self and express the real truth.

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