This week I read about memory, truth and lying by different authors. It was interesting to read different views by different people regarding these topics.

I found Daniel Nester’s “Notes on Frey” fascinating as he talks about the infamous lying memoirist- James Frey. Phillip Lopate wrote in –‘Writing personal essays: On the necessity of turning oneself into a character’ that “to make an essay successful and interesting, we need to dramatize ourselves” (118) and this is what Frey did in his writings- dramatized himself both in books and media which caught attention. It is true that while reading a memoir, it seems like the writer has a photographic memory of everything that he mentions in the book. However, in reality these writers take bits and pieces from their experiences and put it together to make an exaggerated story- “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). To catch the audience attention, the writers want to make their memoir interesting and that is why they write what the readers want to read.

While reading Patricia Hampl’s – Memory and Imagination, anyone could be convinced that she was telling a true story. Its only at the end when one realizes that she lied while writing her story just to fill in the gaps in her memory. As a result, these stories are invented- “memory inevitably leads to invention” (24) as the writer needs to write something in the blank paper. Montaigne and Hampl have similar views about how memory fades away over time and the invention of new memory. For example, Montaigne says, “The circumstances that we learned first, slipping into the mind every moment, tend to weaken the memory of the false or the corrupted parts that have been added in” (11). This is similar to what Hampl said about how memory weakens over time. Since part of the memory fades away, the gaps filled in with lies that we believe is true.

Francis Bacon’s- Of Truth focuses on how important the truth is which differs from Hampl and Nester’s readings. Bacon emphasizes how men can achieve pleasure by speaking the truth. I do not completely agree with Bacon, since in few situations, telling a lie is better than telling the truth.

I could relate to Hampl because when I was writing my own personal essay, there were details in my story that I could not remember clearly but I managed to fill in the parts that were missing by adding my own facts in it.





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1 Response to Lying

  1. I tend to agree that in order to gain the readers attention, one must “dramatize ourselves” but I do think Frey went a bit too far. He claimed that he was in jail for nearly 87 days when in fact he only spent a few hours in there. I think this is a far stretch to claim that he was merely “exaggerating”. But then again who determines whether or not an “exaggeration” of ones story or perhaps, their “spin” on the event is too far fetched? There may be a fuzzy line between exaggeration and blatant lies. I like the way you described Hampl’s work – and I tend to agree with her approach as well. Although she admits that she is lying – I do not interpret them that way because I feel like her lies are much less deceitful and she only placed them there to emphasize her true meaning.

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