Is there a word for the realization that my memoir-ish writing is full of lies but my fiction is honest?

Expand full comment
Oct 26, 2022·edited Oct 26, 2022Liked by Alicia Kenworthy

I like this, and sometimes start with a what-if circumstance and run a far off story from it. Most important, I recently used this technique in helping me pack. "Lean and clean move!" I've declared it to myself repeatedly, though know when I'm not hitting the mark. I am still in a clearing phase nearly a year down the line since first thought. Oh yes, recovering through a health condition amplified what I already neglected.

But this is the real kicker. I must admit that I might have become a sand dollar hoarder! Over a decade near a beach more cold than what I would enjoy, so many sand dollars perfectly sat there for me to pick up over time. So, I started packing them. Yes, some are qualified art supplies, and anything with a barnacle attached is a keeper. I said just one box, which was provided by a wine distributor and of good size, and still had an amount I will not admit remaining to let go. I thought about if I was moving in with a housemate, how would I explain my sand dollars. That did not seem resolve to my desire. So, I changed the scene. Now, I am moving into a new place along with a significant other and we are sorting our boxes of stuff. I did this because I wrapped and packed a whole second box of sand dollars. How am I going to explain to someone I love that I'm moving two wine cases full of sand dollars into our new home. "What's in the box? - Sand dollars. … And, what is this box? - Sand dollars." There's more dialogue, though creating a fictional significant other to call me on my sand dollar hoarding helped. (I still have two boxes, though the greater of the lot has moved on.)

Expand full comment

The brief piece feels the way good fiction ought to: real. xo Mary

Expand full comment

Well I disagree fundamentally about first-person autobiographical fiction being solely ‘self-absorbed scribbles.’ That would take way too much good, classic, important work off the shelf. But I like your writing, and I wholeheartedly agree that fiction is often ironically more honest and true than ‘real life.’ I myself write autobiographical fiction but I love this because I’ll often hew largely to ‘the real truth’ but then exaggerate or even totally shift into pure imagination when it serves my fancy/the story/the character. To me that’s the joy of it. I like the idea of mirroring ‘real life’ yet throwing literary pebbles onto the surface of the lake sometimes, too, and watching the fantastic ripples.

I subscribed to your Sub. Here’s a plug for Alicia’s brand-new essay on Mary Tabor’s Sub: https://marytabor.substack.com/p/on-process

Michael Mohr

‘Sincere American Writing’


Expand full comment