Sunday, October 17, 2010

So does a writer have the right to write about her own life?

I have just read a fascinating memoir. The writer is a novelist and essayist in her own right, but in this book she concentrates on her own life and the way it was (mostly adversely) affected by the machinations of a manipulative very much older man, who twisted her thinking and her perceptions of herself in ways that tainted her life for years and years, even though she only lived with him for a year before he unceremoniously tossed her out.

It wasn't until her own daughter (from a later marriage) was 18 that she really confronted what had been done to her, "the dark side of the Pygmalion myth" as another woman writer remarked.

There is no doubt that her account keeps as close as a memoir can to the truth - she had the man's letters, and carbon copies of her replies to remind her of his manipulations, after all. And since her memoir was published, there has been evidence that she wasn't the only 18 year old that was prey to this man's colossal arrogance and ego. (He was 53 when they met).


Yet, when she published her memoir, many people villified her for making such things public. The man was known to be intensely reclusive, hating publicity of any kind. She was attacked in the media, brutally, for daring to write the memoir.


So what do you think? Does a writer have a right to tell the story of her own life, even if those she writes about don't come off very well in the account?

5 comments:

Marilyn Z.Tomlins said...

Yes,I think we all have a right to write about our own lives. Whether it will be interesting and something someone else would want to read, that is another story.

Katharine said...

As long as it's your own story, the truth, and that it's done for a reason like getting the story out there rather than revenge... then I think so.

Though there is a kindness in changing names and events - whether the kindness is required is a whole different matter.

eeleenlee said...

As long as its not a sort of 'Mommy Dearest' tell-all.

Glenda Larke said...

Marilyn, this one was particularly interesting, partly because of the name and stature of the man. More of that in tomorrow's post...

Katherine. in this particular case, I don't think he deserved kindness.

Eeleenlee - I think you'd enjoy the book. I haven't read Mommy Dearest though...

Jo said...

I definitely believe one has a right to describe one's own life, I am not sure about "protecting the innocent" or not so innocent though. Its a published and be damned situation isn't it? If its all true that's fine, but who is to say that it is true?