Saturday, August 21, 2010

The True Life Novel + Cosmos Glory

Day 194 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and way back at the beginning of the year a couple I know was reading Half Broke Horses, by Jeanette Walls. It was for some reason on my mind yesterday, when I wrote about particular sadnesses instead, and this morning, when I stopped by Goodreads, there it was, in an ad by Target, like a little omen/reminder, so here it is now.

I'm interested in its subtitle identification as "a true life novel."

Walls's first book was a memoir, The Glass Castle, about her own upbringing, that was a "common book" at some colleges, including my son's, so it is in our house, he has read it, and I plan to read it someday. I do like memoirs and need to read Zippy, by Haven Kimmel, mentioned a couple days ago. Maybe I did read it. Maybe that's a problem with memoirs....or my squished brain cells. Hmm, if I am going to write my own memoirs, 1) I better do it fast, before any more brain cells get squished and 2) I better get vaguely famous fast, so anyone might be interested. Oh, wait. The Glass Castle is what made Walls famous! One more squish.

Anyhoo, in Half Broke Horses, she becomes her grandmother, to narrate that memoir, but thus, since she's not her, it's a novel. Or it's fiction, anyway. The Washington Post review (posted at Amazon) compares it to Charles Dickens in its sprawl of incident but also points out the limitations of true life as novel structure; it can't go where it needs to go if it didn't go there in true life.

This comes back to one of my gentle peeves, the autobiographical novel, the one that some say everyone writes. Some write one great one--To Kill a Mockingbird--in a lifetime. Some put that first autobiographical novel in a drawer and move on to true fiction, that might, of course, be based on witnessed/experienced/rearranged true life. Some do research, combine it with acute observation and wild imagination, and come up with true fiction. Some do a conscious blend, at some point, as in Alice Munro stories, and The View from Castle Rock, in her historical particular. And some do a con job, presenting fiction as memoir, to make it sell. With variations, blends, and blurrings in between.

And so I am back to the fantabulous flowers in Lorel's garden as my image for today. In my own true life back yard, the blue morning glories I planted from seed are finally blooming. In Lorel's back yard, well, what you see is what you see.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

OMG, just as I posted this, blogspot sent me a little ad: Turn your blog into a book. Prices start at $14.95. Don't worry, I am not going to do that.