With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
We share the intimate details of our past for others than ever before. The sea change of privacy and celebrity perhaps. Whatever the reason, keep this maxim in mind: Just because it happened to you does not make it interesting.
There is a place for nostalgia. Biographies and memoirs of the unknown are living proof. However, if we are to examine our history for the consumption of others, what a delightful puzzle it would be to intimate causality in post hoc fashion. Even if the connection is merely thesis and does not stand under careful scrutiny, I would applaud the attempt.
In recent memory, one of the best illustrations of this attempt is Alexander Masters’ Stuart A life backwards, a quasi-biography of his friend Stuart and how his life unraveled so tragically.
The above maxim is a challenge, a call to raise the bar. Causality can be found in memories long-buried, like a time capsule. A well thought out connection in a biography or memoir can reap a rich reward, not unlike the dessert generously presented at the end of a novel.
Conversely, the above maxim is a threat, a warning to tread carefully. Writers who lack backbone fall prey to enemies of the truth. The time-capsule has to have been buried. If one were to posit, well, what if I had buried a time-capsule, wouldn’t this memory make sense, then the definition of biography and memoir becomes a slippery slope. The manufacturing of causality is not nostalgia. It is fiction.
Writers who lack backbone fall prey to enemies of the truth.
When I wrote my memoir several years ago, I tried to be mindful of the challenge and the threat. The threat proved a stronger motivation. I was truthful and entertaining. But when I stepped to take the challenge the threat proved a stronger motivation. Attempts at cleverness, novelty over causality ultimately left the book wanting. It was an exercise of almost daring.
So here we are. At the crossroads of safety and uncertainty. On the diving board, looking down.