Archive for March, 2008
Back in the day when I had a black and white screen computer and a 2400 baud modem … you know, like 1997 … I really had no idea things would be the way they are right now. The ways in which our lives are publicly consumable–sometimes intentionally, sometimes not so–is a little strange.
I noticed this weird trend after the 10 year high school reunion I had no desire or reason to attend. It was 2005 and suddenly all these people I went to high school with were looking at my Friendster account. I’ll interject here that it’s not like I disliked any of them, nor do I harbor real resentment against the vast, vast majority of people I spent my childhood/teenage years with. I knew a lot of decent people, and a number of people who I really enjoyed spending my time with.
The thing is, as an adult, I’ve made very conscious choices about who my friends are and should be. I’ve little curiosity about what my former classmates are up to–excluding those whose friendships were important to me or the few who continue to be my good friends. I’ll admit, when I was living in New York, my friend Megan and I decided to create rumors about ourselves and see if they spread and it’s entirely possible the rumors that she was a stripper with implants and I was a dominatrix actually made their way into conversation…but I’d kind of forgotten we did that until I saw all those pictures of the folks I went to school with.
I was listening to RadioLab with Megan (not the Megan from the above paragraph, my wonderful girlfriend Megan) and it was about deception. A part of the hour was about this guy who decided to stop lying. He recounted a story about an evening he spent with people he didn’t really care for and then was invited out again–but didn’t want to go. He said he couldn’t make it (which was true that time), but when they asked what date was good for him, he said something to the extent of: I don’t have time for the friends I have…and this isn’t worth it.
Heh. Harsh, I suppose, but also true. I’ve used that in the past with people I’ve dated. You can call it mean, but it’s true–I have a lot of friends. People I don’t get to see nearly enough, and the only way I can really maintain new friendships is to be able to bring people together–which means there needs to be some hope that someone I see as a potential new friend would have good group interaction with the people I already love and make time for.
I was thinking about this quite explicitly last week, too, after my women and money class (yes, I am feeling rather empowered). The woman leading the class was talking about making time and financial decisions, specifically about how when she had four young children they were late to everything and she was always crabby. She decided she couldn’t do everything they’d been doing and had to make some decisions about that. People were upset with her because she wasn’t as available as she had been–one woman in class asked if her friends/others ever got over it. She said: they had to.
With the changes that have happened in my life this year, and with the changes that will start in the fall, I’m in one of those places. I’ve been on my own for so long, and completely uncommitted to anyone’s needs but my own, that people have gotten used to me being almost immediately available if something fun comes along. That’s just not the case anymore and it’s an adjustment for all involved. This isn’t to say that I’ve become some sort of homebody or anything, but that my life is structured differently. I’m really, really enjoying the difference and the way my life is changing and I know that in the end people will get used to scheduling things with me differently and I’ll somehow find time to hone the balance of work+relationship+school+friends as well as any human can.
I guess this has been a digression from the original paragraph, but it’s all tied together somehow. I guess I don’t really understand this need to reconnect with people I hardly know. I’m not adamantly against it or anything, I just don’t know how anyone has time for it. And I guess I feel differently about people I was friends with in college or graduate school. Those were years when I chose my environment… Maybe I’m just kind of a jerk. I can live with that too.
An Iranian lesbian who fled to Britain after her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death faces being forcibly returned after losing the latest round in her battle to be granted asylum.
The case of Pegah Emambakhsh, 40, comes a day after The Independent reported on the growing public outcry over the plight of a gay Iranian teenager who fears he will be executed if he is deported to Iran.
Both cases have provoked international protests against Britain and led to calls for an immediate moratorium on the deportation of gay and lesbian asylum-seekers who fear they will be persecuted in Iran.
More than 60 MEPs have signed a petition asking Gordon Brown to reverse the decision on Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who escaped to the Netherlands after the Home Office refused him asylum last year. His case is still before Dutch judges who will decide this month whether he should return to Britain where he faces deportation to a country which has already executed his boyfriend.
In turning down Ms Emambakhsh and Mr Kazemi’s asylum applications, the Home Office has said that, provided Iranians are discreet about their homosexuality, they will not be persecuted.
Mehdi Kazemi has said his life is in danger if he is returned to Iran, where he says his boyfriend named him as a partner before being executed.
Homosexual acts are illegal in the Islamic republic.
A Dutch spokesman said Mr Kazemi would now be sent to the UK, the first European country he entered.
A claim for asylum in the UK had already been turned down.
I mean, is there really any more to say about this?
In the last week, there have been two “memoirs” whose authors have been outed as more than just embellishing the truth. In both situations, we have something that would be cast one way as fiction–but when passed off as memoir, these works become harmful.
First, and less publicized, was a Holocaust memoir:
A best-selling Holocaust memoir has been revealed to be a fake. The author was never trapped in the Warsaw ghetto. Neither was she adopted by wolves who protected her from the Nazis, nor did she trek 1,900 miles across Europe in search of her deported parents or kill a German soldier in self-defense. She wasn’t even Jewish, The Associated Press reported. Misha Defonseca, 71, right, a Belgian writer living in Dudley, Mass., about 60 miles southwest of Boston, admitted through her lawyers last week that her book, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years,” translated into 18 language and adapted for the French feature film “Surviving With Wolves,” was a fantasy.
This just tears me. Once you decide to alter the world a narrative lives in, you need to take responsibility for it. What are the reasons to masquerade a fictional tale as memoir? For someone like James Frey, it was that juicy memoirs get published–so he added more than embellishments to his story. That, to me, is harmless enough–also a laugh at the publishing industry. You know, ‘you wouldn’t publish my fiction so I fictionalized my memoir and it sold like crazy, jerks.’ Or something to that effect.
But fictionalizing a memoir about the Holocaust? On what planet is that a good idea? It’s one thing for a writer to write a fictional memoir, quite another to write a fictional memoir and pass it off as real.
Then there was Margaret B. Jones. You know, a half-white, half-American Indian raised in poverty in the foster system who was enmeshed in gangs and drugs. Er. Wait. No, that’s Margaret Seltzer. The white, well-off girl who was raised by her biological family. Potato, potahto.
Jones, 33, admitted to the Times that her memoir was fully fabricated. Many of the experiences recounted in the book, she told the newspaper, were based on the experiences of friends she had met while doing anti-gang outreach in Los Angeles.
“For whatever reason, I was really torn, and I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don’t listen to,” she told the paper.
I call bullshit. Memoirs are profitable business right now–if you expose yourself and you’re interesting enough…well…you get book deals and movies. Let’s ignore, for the purposes of this blog post, that there are tricky details that happen whenever you try to represent others’ voices (because I think creative people have every right to step out of their lives and into others’ in their work).
Instead, let’s rant:
Margaret–you wanted to give the people you wrote about a voice? Why didn’t you write a biography, a memoir of your time doing gang outreach, an essay, a book about the gangs, a fictional world of the gangs inspired by the real world? Same goes for you, Misha. You wanted to publish, you wanted money, you didn’t want to give voice to anyone. You fetishized and capitalized on the pain and hard lives of others and you SUCK.
I want to reinforce again that I think writers should write what suits their fancy. And if you want to write a fake memoir because it seems to fit what you want the work to do–go ahead, but it better be shelved on the fiction shelves (meaning: you say you wrote a memoir of a fictional character – or a character inspired by a real person(s)). Dammit.
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