Books that currently ‘saved for later’ – either because I hope to find them at the library book sale, at the local bookstore, or I really don’t have need of them – offered without comment:
- The complete works of Elizabeth Gaskell
- The complete works of Constance Holme
- Thomas Love Peacock, The Misfortunes of Elphin and Crotchet Castle
- Hope Mirrlees, A Fly in Amber being and Extravagant Biography of the Romantic Antiquary Sir Robert Bruce Cotton
- Stevie Smith, Novel on Yellow Paper
- Jane Ellen Harrison & Hope Mirrlees, translators, The Book of the Bear, Being Twenty-One Tales Newly Translated from the Russian. With a Preface and Epilogue.
- Mary Brooks Picken, Practical Home Mending Made Easy
- Wendy Walker, The Secret Service
- James Hogg, Tales and Sketches by the Ettrick Shepherd, The Hunt of Eildon, The Shepherd’s Calendar, Etc.
- Rebecca Brown, American Romances
There were some others, too, but I deleted them or someone else bought them or they anyhow disappeared.
the art of ‘truthiness’
Well, if I forked over the cover price for nonfiction, I consider it my business. While it’s great she [Vivian Gornick] owned up to her deceits, it’s hard to lend credence to any after-the-fact confession, especially one as vague or self-justifying as this one. It’s as if after lunch the deli guy quipped, ‘I put a teaspoon of catshit in your sandwich, but you didn’t notice at all.’ To my mind, a small bit of catshit equals a catshit sandwich, unless I know where the catshit is and can eat around it.
—Mary Karr (The Art of Memoir, p. 11)1
Pace Karr, it seems to me that the sort of embellishment Gornick discusses in the interview is not so much a foreign addition to the narrative process (or as Karr so colorfully puts it, ‘a teaspoon of catshit’), but an essential and useful part of it – as salt is to food: one would not like too much of it, but it generally improves the flavor of the composition when it is there. Yet one must admit that for some people, ‘facts alone are wanted in life’ – and that anything else will somehow fail in its ‘truthiness’.
This has not been my experience – I have in general found facts to be quite unsatisfactory, particularly in their relation to truth: they are merely facts and are not the more true because of it. Rather, it is the disposition, the arrangement of facts which may get at or represent truth – but will not yet be the truth because any arrangement is arbitrary and personal, an embellishment and a composition: merely a story, a – not the – truth.2
- I am sure Karr goes on to offer useful advice for the aspiring (bestselling) memoirist and all such persons would be well-advised to read it. As I admit I lost patience here, my reading is of course arbitrary and incomplete. [↩]
- As a mere note, I wonder how much this is a matter of faith – as Karr claims Catholicism (25) and I claim nothing in particular. I have no answer for (or real interest in) the question, but it does seem a relevant one. [↩]
notes on X
At the time my partner was infatuated – ‘in love’ – with X—. We had left the city two years before and were only just settling into the rhythms of life in a smaller town, with its limited pleasures and circumscribed acquaintance, when I became aware of my partner’s feelings. Or, rather, when I was told of them by one of X—’s friends, who I think did not quite approve. She asked me what I thought, and I was forced to confess that I had not thought of the matter at all. At the moment she forced me to examine it, that love, those feelings that weren’t even my own, I found in myself the same tender interest one has for a sore tooth that may or may not be salvageable. I told her I did not know what to think. I still don’t.