Truth Better Than Fiction OR Vice Versa?

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” William James

And who isn’t wise enough to gloss over a few things when we tell our stories? Ah, but where is the line between applying a little wisdom and telling a story that never happened?

Movie poster Julie and JuliaI will confess that I loved the movie Julie and Julia, about Julia Child and a cooking blog by Julie Powell. I liked the idea that the movie was based on real events. That doesn’t mean that I expected every single detail to be true. That never happens. My husband and I can come home from the same dinner party and remember the evening entirely differently. Everything we do is colored by memory, expectation, our differing feelings and experiences. Not to mention whatever wisdom we’ve applied to the things we’d rather not recall. book cover Julie and JuliaNevertheless, when I picked up the book Julie and Julia and read the disclaimer that parts of the book had been fictionalized, I put it down again. As a reader, I didn’t want to wonder which parts.

logo The Daily BeastThe following article from argues that some true stories are better as fiction. I agree. I also like memoir. Mostly I want them to be clearly one or the other. However, wisdom aside, even that may not be as easy as it sounds. See what you think . . .



Filed under Life Story, Memoir, Memories, Movie, Personal Narrative

3 responses to “Truth Better Than Fiction OR Vice Versa?

  1. I loved the book Julie & Julia. It didn’t matter to me whether parts were fictionalized or not. I don’t remember even thinking about it because I found the whole premise of the book fun. In general, tho, I prefer memoir to be that, memory–which is often different from nonfiction. It’s more about experience than about relaying the facts everyone would agree with. One book that did a magnificent job of blending the two, however, is Linda Tate’s Power in the Blood. Tate set out to discover the truth about her family’s Appalachian and Native American past. She did deep, scholarly research alongside family research, so when she says in her introduction that parts of the story are “imagined,” those imagined parts, such as what someone was wearing or might have said, etc., are based on solid historical findings. They did not detract in the least from the story she had to tell, which was really about her experiences and feelings as she delved deeply into a personal history.

  2. Indira Ganesan

    I liked the movie J & J, and like everyone else, just wanted to see the magnificent Meryl Streep play Julia Child. That said, memoirs are always part fiction, aren’t they? Reading MFK Fisher’s gorgeous books attest to great writing and the ability to tell a story. Ditto Amanda Hesser’s book about Mr Latte. For a brief moment, we enter their worlds, and leave our own. A disclaimer in a memoir is off-putting though, even though novels often say characters are not based real people. It sets off a flag, an immediate distrust.

    • I agree all memoirs are problematic because memory is never trustworthy, but I like authors who try to be true to what they remember. Julie and Julia implied that whole sections of the story were made-up. Or, maybe, I misread that disclaimer. Thanks for the comment. This is an on-going important discussion.

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