Misremembering is not Misinformation…or is it?

I know the importance of getting a story right but what does that actually mean? There are a number of movies and contemporary works that gained notoriety and celebration for being memoirs that read almost like fiction. Among them: Angela’s Ashes. Running with Scissors. Eat, Pray, Love. Girl, Interrupted. Hillbilly Elegy. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. And on and on. And there has been some gentle pushback from some folk who were proximal to these stories who have a very different take on certain events represented by the authors. They aren’t saying “You lied!” They are saying, “I remember it very differently.” And “You were too young to actually remember that. You are borrowing from stories you heard.” I don’t mind the tension. In fact, I see the author more clearly in the space between the two versions. I hope that made sense.

I also see the embellishment in some. I don’t mind at all. It’s good, rich storytelling. I don’t regard it as misinformation. In my view, misinformation is an intentional wrong answer designed to mislead or misrepresent. Misremembrance is curated language for the weight of a memory. How you feel about what happened is usually heavier than what actually happened. Your remembrance, then, can be colored by how you feel about it. I recently finished Viola Davis’s memoir and in it she talks a lot about very dark, difficult, troubling past. Poverty and abuse centralized the story. And she spoke about always feeling ugly and what a hex that can be. She just offered it, like a bone bleached from the sun. It isn’t heroic or supernatural or fantastic. It is the internal bruising we all can carry when we have organized ourselves around the meanest shit a person has ever said or done to us. How, if you’re not careful, you can make a home out of that kind of hurt. Those are the real haunted houses, kids.  Let’s do some writing.