Uncategorized | July 23, 2005

Perhaps our poetry editor Steve Gehrke is merely a skeptic. Maybe the problems with his memory are simply his own. But in “The Problem of the Beard,” Gehrke raises an important issue in regard to the reconstruction of the past in creative nonfiction and memoir. “How does the nonfiction writer, the memoirist, deal with the problems of memory?” Gehrke writes. “I think I know: they cheat.”

William Bradley, who conducted our interview with Tobias Wolff in TMR 26:3, responds to “The Problem of the Beard” in our discussion forum:

“I do not believe that most successful creative nonfiction writers really ‘invent’ anything in their narratives—at least, not in the intentional way that I think Steve is claiming they do. While I am sometimes suspicious of some of the memoirs produced in the last ten years or so, most of the great memoirs of the 20th century—Stop-Time, Speak, Memory, This Boy’s Life—seem pretty firmly rooted to their authors’ actual memories of actual events. These memories may at times be faulty, but the result cannot be called deliberate invention or fabrication.”