I don’t blog much on Saturdays and Sundays. But, I’ve been away and now it is all spilling out. So… here’s a bit to read on defining memoirs.
Here’s a good link on Memoirs at Inkspell.
Here’s another: Memoir Cafe.
And Judith Barrington.
Wikipedia has some too.
Here’s a comment from a friend who is an English professor, who knows I like Mark Twain’s Autobiography, which is mostly fiction. But with whom I disagree on lots, if not most, things. (By the way, we were with a house-full of colleagues as we wished a colleague who retired many blessed years, and our table agree completely that Frey’s book should be fiction and not memoir. But here from a more postmodernist side:
A memoir, like any account, even historical accounts, will inadvertently stray from the actual truth or (un)intentionally embellish the truth. It’s impossible to transcribe reality. No one is privy to THE truth of the original, and even if we were, we’d lose it as we tried to transcribe it. We have only versions of the truth, ie per-versions.
However, given the genre as it now stands, an audience assumes that the author of a memoir has done his best to recollect and record the facts, granting him “some” leeway to recapture the spirit and atmosphere of events and of course to reconstruct dialogue etc. But the assumption is that the account is based on fact, on experiences that actually occurred. I think Frey constructed events ex nihilo [?] to help develop his “character.” At that point he has crossed the line into fiction, a fictionalized memoir (aka a novel) [See P. Roth who is a master of this genre, and who admits that this is fiction.]
Frey is, nonetheless, in good company. Mark Twain’s autobiography is one of the finest works of fiction ever perpetrated on the reading public. I’m afraid, however, that Twain thought it was the truth. (Even here tho, we get at some truth: Twain’s deluded self-image.)