Patricia Hampl offers some valuable insight in “Memory and Imagination.” There are several quotable quotes that deserve some analysis and consideration. The first that caught my attention was: “a risky business, revealing the self.” When thinking about the autobiography or any writing of the self, there is a sense of real danger. It is hard enough exposing your true feelings/true self to people who know and love you, now add a much more public venue, a more revealing mode of communication and people who may not know you or care about you at all. How can the writer be sure that they will be understood? How can they be sure they will be liked or empathized with? The writer can never know that until long after the words hit the page and the book hits the shelf.
The next quote that caught my eye was: “I was getting what I wanted. Finally!” She was commenting on the cathartic element of writing about one’s life and experience. She explains that her story came out somewhat skewed from the actual events, because subconsciously she was fulfilling her wants and needs through her writing. She may never have gotten that “superior” piano book that all the other kids had when she was a child, but she certainly does now, even if only in her semi-accurate recollection of her childhood.
I have given this reading a lot of thought in the last few days. I have thought of my own semi-accurate memory of events and circumstances and how necessary and important it is to explore the reasons for your alterations. Is your mother’s jacket black in your story because it was actually black? Or were you were admiring her rebellious nature in that particular event? Did your best friend’s parents really have an Olympic size pool or did you imagine it to be that big because you were so impressed with their wealth and luxury? For me, often the answer is that when I write, it is not my brain doing the writing, but my memory, conscious and subconscious working out details and disputing over facts in an effort to reach some deeper understanding. Hampl does a great job of illustrating this anomaly and helping the reader to look deeper into their own experience with it.