a priest's musings on the journey

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sedaris, Burroughs: Memoir, Fiction, or ?

I have been a fan of David Sedaris ever since I first heard him read his Santaland Diaries on NPR. I love his sardonic wit, southern accent, and the stories he tells about his Greek family and their lives in North Carolina. Recently, Alex heard wrote an article criticizing Sedaris' claim that his works are autobiographical and non-fiction. In This American Lie, published in the March issue of The New Republic, Heard claimed that Sedaris' stories were out right lies that never happened. Heard writes that he had conversations with people in Raleigh who can prove his claims. I don't know. Perhaps he does (well, I'm sure he might; however, I think Mr. Heard just might not be able to appreciate Southern storytelling. We all tell Tall Tales when we tell our stories down here; a bit of exaggeration and colorful embellishment is expected and understood. It does not mean the stories are not true.

While not a Southerner, another writer who knows how to spin his personal story into a Tall tale, albeit a raunchy one, is Augusten Burroughs. His stories are not exactly funny, but you'll find yourself laughing anyways (sometimes most definitely inappropriately). I suppose now he is most known for Running with Scissors,which was released in 2006 as a movie with the same name. Like many of Sedaris' works, Burroghs writings are embellished memoirs. Running with Scissors is a telling of Burroughs adolescents and teenage years, from the time his parents separated and his mother came out as a lesbian, to the day Burroughs himself came out to his guardian's son, who sexually abused him.

In January 2007, Vanity Fair published an article, similar to Heard's article in New Republic, alleging that much of Burroughs story in Running with Scissors was fiction. This time, however, the authors telling of his story was challenged by the Turcotte family, who claim that Burroughs has slandered them and portrayed them falsley in his book, using them as a basis for the Finch family. In 2005 the Turcotte family sued Burroughs for defamation of character. The family also sued Sony, who used the memoir as a basis for the movie; this suit was settled out of court. The suit against Burroughs and his publisher is still pending.

Burroughs latest book, published in 2006, is Possible Side Effects, is a dark, lewd, and humorous retelling of his dysfunctional life. You can read the first chapter here.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:57 PM


Everything here is true...

I usually assumed David was making stuff up. I mean if my family was like that I don't know if I'd have the brass to say so - and still show up at Christmas and expect Momma to feed me.

Now, I can't read the article on Sedaris, but I can easily imagine the Introduction is as much a part of the fiction as everything else. The set-up, as it were, to the punchline that is the entire book.

"Naked" ends with that odd scene of David playing ping pong at a nudist camp. David's wearing a t-shirt that makes him feel less naked - but he's not wearing any pants. I think that's the point, really. An author will expose as much as he feels comfortable. The rest is made up.

I'm not offended by the author's skills in this process.
Blogger Huw Raphael, at 11:10 PM  

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