Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When we tell the story of our lives

CK and I have been talking a lot about how wildly different two people's accounts of a situation can be. And how hard it is to reconcile yourself to the fact that the other person might never see things your way. Might never come to understand where you were coming from. Which reminded me of this Sacred Advertisement from Rob Brezny.

"SACRED ADVERTISEMENT
There was an indignant uproar after revelations in 2006 that James Frey's best-selling "memoir" A Million Little Pieces contains fabrications. He hadn't actually lived all of the experiences he depicted therein.

Hearing about it prompted me to ruminate on whether there's any such thing as a completely accurate account of any person's life. My conclusion: no.

In every autobiography and biography ever written, the author imaginatively strings together selectively chosen details to conjure up artificially coherent narratives rather than depicting the crazy-quilt ambiguity that actually characterizes everyone's journey.

If you and nine writers set out to tell your life story, you'd produce 10 wildly different tales, each rife with subjective interpretation, misplaced emphasis, unintentional distortions, and exorbitant extrapolations from insufficient data.

Celebrate the malleability of reality. Regale listeners with stories about the time you worked as a pirate in the Indian Ocean, or rode the rails through Kansas as a hobo, or gave a down-on-his-luck CIA agent sage advice in an elevator. When you call to get pizza delivered and the clerk who takes your order asks your name, say you're Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton. When someone you're meeting is annoyed because you're late, say you couldn't help it because you were smoking crack in the bus station bathroom with your mom's guru and lost track of time. If asked how much education you have, say you have three PhDs, one each in astrobiology, Russian literature, and whale songs. "
Rob Brezny

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