A memorist can’t rely on their memory. So why do we even try to recall things? Hampl’s essay discusses her own inconsistencies and how she makes fixes it.
When writing a personal narrative, we tend to add things to make the story a good story. Hampl distorts things, but she doesn’t know she’s doing it when she’s writing the first draft. It’s only after she re-reads it when she discovers the inability to recall certain events in her life accurately.
She says in the essay, “To tell a story, it is necessary to put something first, then something else”(34). Hampl doesn’t know what she is going to write about, so “the first attempt is to create a shape”(34). Instead of having a blank of paper, we need to just write and put things in to figure out what we’re going to write about. Sometimes the story takes a different direction and that’s when the inconsistencies come in. We input things we’re not entirely sure if they were true or not, but it enables us to connect things from A to B.
Once we have the first draft done, we can find out what direction we want to take and at the same time see the mistakes we made. We then “feel a relationship developing between a former self and me”(35). Things start clicking, we remember things much more vividly, and we get the connection not only between self and older self, but to the world as well.
“True memoir is written, like all literature, in an attempt to find not only a self but a world”(35). A memoir captures more than one’s self journey, but it enables us and the readers to find a bigger truth. A memoir to me is more than just a person’s story, but it’s my story as well. That’s why some memoirs I feel more of a connection than others just because I can relate to some of them more personally.
I agree that her memoir captures “the life-of-the-times as no political analysis can.” We get more intimate with a memoir than with a political analysis. For example, we know what happened at the concentrations camps, but a memoir of a prisoner shows us how it felt.
A memoir doesn’t has to be factually accurate, but it better be close to it. We can’t rely on anyone’s memory, but we don’t read a memoir because of someone’s memory. We read them to get the truth from those memories. As long as the writer tells the reader that, “hey, I tried my best to be fully accurate, but I’m not perfect” then I’m ok with it.The line is drawn when you need to create an event. If you have to change a word here or there, fine that’s ok, but creating an event that never happened just to make the story sound better is wrong.
I am writing a memoir about my current life now, and to make it accurate I keep a daily journal on what happened. I change the names of the people, and if anything that I write I’m not sure of its accuracy, I will tell the readers that I’m not sure if this happened this way. I want to be honest to the readers and when I can’t be, I tell them.