Friday, March 7, 2008

Reality Fiction

The “Memoire of a Liar” or “Fake Memoire” takes place once again through Love and Consequences, by Margaret (Peggy) Seltzer-Eugene, Oregon-who fabricated letters, brought people who impersonated fictitious characters to the publisher to prove her novel a real “memoire”.

Memoires, as stories of witness, are highly marketable in North America. I first learned this during book-marketing class, and later noticed how memoire writing classes fill up only a few days after registration is open and maintain a long waiting list.

Would this obsession prove true for the rest of the world, or is it American specific? I remember growing up in Saudi in a time where Saudi writers fought to establish a separation between themselves and their characters. “My characters do not express my opinion; they simply express the diversity of life.” But even still, readers readily believed the main character to be true to the author, especially as it embraces the forbidden.

I wonder if Saudis are equally obsessed with real stories. The book market in Saudi Arabia is still not well established, so I cannot use any figures as basis for an argument. Could the rise of demand on reality TV be an indication? Reality TV exposes “others” who live a fictitious life in a fictitious land, but could it be an early indication of a “reality fiction” crisis that is waiting to happen?


Hning said...

Saudis, if they ever do read, would enjoy memoirs as much as anyone else: seeking points of reference to their own lives.
I think about this and I'm reminded about the slogan under the Simpson's Movie: "See ours and feel better about yours".

It doesn't matter how thin the truth is stretched, doesn't really matter if mere snippets are fabricated or the entirety based on well-presented lies. The fact that someone out there is doing (or writing about a life that's probably) better or worse than I mine is good enough to improve anyone's day.

"Am I doing alright? Is my life going fine? Am I still normal compared to most people? THIS writer?"

We read memoirs and gossip columns and blogs because there're basic cognitive needs fulfilled: recognition. Acknowledgement. Encouragement. Motivation. Anything that could improve and strengthen our belief in the intricate and comfortable perceptions of our lives.

Lo and behold, was that my good friend Ms. Shadenfreude passing by to boost my deflated spirits? Truly, what better remedy could there be, than a sip of lukewarm, subliminal gossip presented in a form as cultured and sophisticated as a book? Nothing like a good dose of voyeurism on someone else's miseries to lift a girl's day up.

G.E&B said...

I think it's extending to popular Arabic literature. The past few times I've been in an Arabic bookstore Turki Al-Dekheel, Al-Waleed bin Talal and Mohammad Bin Rashed all glared at me from the bookshelves. (I realize they're not all biographies but its still a new phenomenon.)

Although, I'm not sure autobiographies are the "next big thing." Arab don't really have that "confessional culture". You have a secret, your secret dies with you. You do something "wrong", you deny it till the day you die.

Also, in most of our countries we still deal with censorship. Most interesting people, who you'd want to read about, are well-connected enough to cover their dirt. (Walk into a bookstore in an Arab-populated street in London...lots of dirt.)

Aysha said...

hning and g.e&b, so the need for confessional memoires is always there in all humans-what's not, however, is the Arab/Saudi cultural/social/political readiness to allow heavy/serious dozes of it. Right?
I think I agree...

Aafke said...

I think yes, memoirs are always interesting to a lot of people, but Americans are very prolific!

It is a problem for all writers that they are also easily identified with their fictional characters. Or for actors to be defined by the roles they act.

But then there are also writers who like to use ''some'' autobiographical elements in their fiction, so it can become very complicated.

Aysha said...

you speak like a pro... Can always recognize a writer from their analysis of the process of writing ;)