Portrait

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Before setting out to work today, I read this:

“… the writer has made the decision of what to include and what to leave out.  It doesn’t mean he or she isn’t telling the truth; it simply means that events can’t be recorded exactly.  They can only be interpreted.  Even a photograph reveals only part of the picture.  The frame is defined by its own four edges.  Whom do you choose to leave out of the portrait?  Whom do you choose to include?”

~  Ann Patchett, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage  

And watched this:  http://nyti.ms/HSbP6R

“There’s more pressure, of course, when you’re writing about people who live and did live.  You face the fact that these people were complicated, multi-faceted, unique human beings.  And through the writing of the memoir you sort of discover that you never truly know an entire person.”

~   Jesmyn Ward

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18 thoughts on “Portrait

  1. Paul Lamb

    I’d read somewhere a long time ago that every person’s life is like a very thick book, and the best we can really get to know is a few pages of it. Both comforting and frustrating.

    1. Teri Post author

      One day I was in the car with my son (he was about 11, I think) and he was pissed at me and said, “I’m not the same person at school as I am at home. You have no idea who I am.”

      I can still remember how much that stung, and how true it is for most all of us.

    1. Josey

      I just got Ann’s book this week. I thought it was a memoir, but it’s actually a collection of essays, most previously published elsewhere. Still good, it’s just not what I thought it was going to be. She does include The Getaway Car which is one of my most favorite pieces of writing about writing. So there’s that. I feel like I’m being negative about it, which I don’t mean to be. The essay’s are all crazy good.

    2. Teri Post author

      I am reading the new Ann Patchett book, all because Josey went to see Ann and I knew she’d be reading it. I also thought it was a memoir, but now that I’m over thinking that, I’m liking the essays. I started with the essays about her dog, Rose. You’re shocked, I’m sure. 😉

  2. Josey

    There’s not knowing a person, and there’s only letting yourself know a person in a singular way so that you can make peace/sense with who you are. The problem with this and writing is that when you try to write them, you realize just how much you relied on them to be who you needed them to be–the bad guy, the inept, the lost, the flawed, the mean one–because everything you write ends up sounding like you’re transcribing passages from your teenage diary. it’s maddening.

    or maybe that’s just me.

    1. Teri Post author

      What I did NOT find in writing the draft of my memoir, I’m finding now in the endless years of rewriting and editing and rearranging. I have to dig deeper to find who every person really is in relation to me (as opposed to being satisfied with the surface selves I’ve pinned on them) and, in fact, the most inept character in my book is me.

      1. Josey

        “the most inept character in my book is me”

        that’s only because you’re doing all the heavy lifting by writing the motherfucker. (excuse my french)

  3. jpon

    “And through the writing of the memoir you sort of discover that you never truly know an entire person.”

    So true, but you learn how each person touches the lives of others, and by inference, you begin to understand how your life does the same.

    1. Teri Post author

      Seeing/hearing this quote today reminded me of the hardest things about writing this memoir: no matter how much I dig, there’s only so much for me to find.

      That said, in the writing I’ve learned some startling truths that were so ridiculously obvious, if I’d only been willing, at the time, to see them.

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