Each time we decide to put bits of ourselves in the open -- to be scrutinised, to be accepted, to be rejected, to be seen, heard, felt, or just to dry -- we become exhibits.
People will notice what they wish to see, not what is displayed.
Is what we display our true self, then?
I often ask myself this question. My answer invariably is that most of the time – if not always – this is the kernel. The husk is anyway given to climatic changes. The hair grows a few centimetres, the nails grow…there is breakage, damage of all kinds…and with time even the renewal and degeneration of them does not come with the same intensity or intent.
Therefore, I think too much is being made about James Frey’s memoirs, ‘A Million Little Pieces’, being fake. He himself confessed to the liberties he took in articulating details about his own life, about exaggerating, about making things appear a little different than they were. This happens to be his prerogative. He controls his life, he knows about the cliff edges he had to teeter near. If he has expressed sounds different from the echoes he heard, then that is his way of listening.
Were anyone to ask one of his ‘subjects’, they would give an entirely different ‘truth’. Recollections in tranquillity or otherwise rarely depend upon the veracity of memories; they are often infused with the levity or light-headedness of hindsight.
And what about novels that seem to be autobiographical, or are at least attributed to a tangible Muse? What about the so-called objective genre of travelogues/treatises that invariably brings in the authorial voice as the reality-giver? What will happen to the Naipauls, the Rushdies?
It is the readers who are the voyeurs.
The writer as exhibitionist is merely a million little pieces put together to look like a whole.