All memoirs are false…


Lucky Tiger #9, Laurel Nakadate, 2009. Via

From Brick:

Here is the first sentence of my autobiographical essay “Trying to Save Piggy Sneed,” which was originally published in the New York Times Book Review of August 22, 1982. I was forty. I wrote: “This is a memoir, but please understand that (to any writer with a good imagination) all memoirs are false.”

If I live much longer—I am seventy-three—every scrap of personal history I write will or should begin with the words, “If I remember correctly.” What I have for you now is a childhood memoir, which may be embellished by the passage of time and my fiction writer’s instinct to revise, improve, enhance. I don’t care what the real story is; what actually happened isn’t what interests me.

If I remember correctly: I once had a cat, though I’m a dog person. It was a black-and-white cat, and it slept on my bed. This was in academy housing at Faculty Circle, Exeter, New Hampshire, and our house was called—this is true—Sleeper House. There must have been a Mr. Sleeper, but I don’t know who he was—maybe an emeritus member of the faculty? True or not, it was my impression that most of the faculty houses at Phillips Exeter Academy—like the dormitories and classroom buildings—were named for long-dead dignitaries or heroes of the school.

“Cat Without Eyes”, John Irving, Brick