Monday, March 10, 2008


Someone Says It

Thankfully, it didn't take long for someone else to point out what annoys me most about these fake memoirs. Daniel Mendelsohn sounds off in the New York Times in a pieced titled "Stolen Suffering":
Empathy and pity are strong and necessary emotions that deepen our sense of connection to others; but they depend on a kind of metaphorical imagination of what others are going through. The facile assumption that we can literally “feel others’ pain” can be dangerous to our sense of who we are — and, more alarmingly, who the others are, too. “We all have AIDS,” a recent public-awareness campaign declared. Well, no, actually we don’t: and to pretend that we do, even rhetorically, debases the anguish of those who are stricken.

And then there's this:
“My reality” raises even more far-reaching and dire questions about the state of our culture, one in which the very concept of “reality” seems to be in danger. Think of “reality” entertainments, which so unnervingly parallel the faux-memoirists’ appropriation of others’ authentic emotional experience: in them, real people are forced to endure painful or humiliating or extreme situations, their real emotional reactions becoming the source of the viewers’ idle gratification. Think of the Internet: an unimaginably powerful tool for education but also a Wild West of random self-expression in which anyone can say anything about anything (or anyone) and have it “published,” and which has already made problematic the line between truth and falsehood, expert and amateur opinion, authentic and inauthentic identities, reality and fantasy.

I tend to think it'll be a while before we move on from this whole fascination with stolen-identity and exposing-ourselves-in-ways-that-make-us-think-we-are-being-authentic. It's just too tempting, too easy to follow the facile path and to engage yourself in a meaningful, and private endeavor is, well, hard.

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