Albert Park, whom I silenced when Arvo took the fore, has been waiting somewhat patiently for me to get back to his story. I mentioned Albert to a book group, which led to a discussion of what is memoir, versus autobiography, versus fiction?
That is the question, isn’t it?
Albert Park‘s subtitle is: a memoir in lies. When I explained to the book group that the book is actually a work of fiction, I could see everyone was confused. Then I explained that the fictional character of Albert Park is a pathological liar. He’s become so convinced of his own lies (in the multiple tellings of his story) that even he no longer knows what the truth is. He no longer knows who he is.
Of course the fact of the matter is that ‘fiction’ is all made up, just like lies are. And how much ‘truth’ is in memoir or autobiography is always in question, isn’t it? But let’s not get too hung up on ‘truth’ and miss the whole point of the journey.
The best fiction (and memoir and autobiography) takes us on a journey to authenticity. At least, that’s what I think. The main characters are, through the various plots, themes, and conflicts in the story, facing their demons, dealing with the outcome of their flaws, and perhaps better people at the end of the story as a result of all of the challenges faced. That’s the journey to authenticity.
Isn’t that how life works too? We are all journeying to our better selves, making plenty of mistakes along the way, disappointing people, and ultimately, we hope, finding a way to triumph over our flaws, but in a moral way. It’s the heroes journey and every one of us is on that journey. That’s why we find fiction and memoir and autobiography so fascinating. Books are a ringside seat to other peoples’ journeys. Their triumph can give us hope.
Conversely, those who don’t want to take that journey, or take it, but not in a moral way, come to another end. In ‘real life’, they are criminals, evil-doers, and just plain bad people. We want them called out, given justice, and kept from doing others harm. In the book, they play the role of villain.
But how does a pathological liar make the transition? Or will he at all? Will Albert be a hero or a villain?
That’s what I’m going to find out.