The human mind has always amazed me in its psychological complexity. It is able to the discern emotions; receive, process, and send information to the rest of the body; and most interestingly among the mind’s various abilities, store memories. Yet, nothing in this world exists without its flaws. Memories can be skewed by the person that holds such snippets of events, and the same individual might not even notice it.
Daniel Nester’s “Notes on Frey” offers an interesting take on the issue of inventing, or exaggerating, a memory and brings up what other memoir writers — and personal essayists, in general — consider a risky and touchy subject: lying. Where is the line drawn between putting substance to a moment and lying about it? Throughout “Notes on Frey,” Nester investigates what it means to commit the sin of lying and how other memoir writers dealt with the subconscious plausibility of inventing a memory. What particularly struck out to me while reading the piece was the Nester’s contemplation of whether “we should allow the existence of more than on kind of memoirist” (128). There are those memoirists who will do anything to get to the absolute truth and those who “value emotional truth over public record” (128). The idea of a truth that arises from the emotions is an appealing idea that I think is quite radical. It reminded me of what Michel de Montaigne notes in his writing, “Of Lies”: the “distinction between telling a lie and lying” (11). The difference appears to blur when writing based on emotional truth, for emotions can go against our conscience and display the truth as something else. However, it is revealing to note what Patricia Hampl, in “Memory and Imagination”, argues as the reason why memoirs should be written: “Memoirs must be written because each of us must possess a created version of the past. … We must live with a version that attached us to our limitations, to the inevitable subjectivity of our points of view” (788). Although difficult to stray away from subconsciously inventing what happens in a memory, our imaginations are what makes us part of who were are: our idiosyncrasies, our views, how we deal with the world. That doesn’t mean we should outright lie about what makes us who we are, but Hampl reassures us that it’s okay to possess a memory different from the absolute truth because realizing that our imagination is an active part of a memory is just the first step to seeing the actual self.