Finally, a last question of the many in this conundrum of truth and memoir: How smooth a story should I, the memoirist, tell? American story-telling convention demands a clear narrative arc, a steady progression toward positive change in the protagonist. Real life is a big mess, and life-changing events roar in out of the blue. My stay in an Air Force Psychiatric ward, for instance. Deus ex machina play a part in every life. This obvious truth about life is somehow impermissible, un-American. When you think about it, it is really the American idea of life story that is preposterous. Whose life is of a piece, an unwavering narrative arrowing straight toward triumph and redemption (especially as it is lived along)? But ought I conform to American convention, so as to make things easy on my readers? I could present a collage, or a crazy quilt, or a box-full of index cards to be sorted by the beholder. I finally decided on a compromise: an unfolding story to invite my readers in, but with bits of the real mess and slop thrown in as well.
In summary, I can say of my memoir: This is not all of me. This is one story of my life. I could have written it as though the black, instead of the white, cat was on the strand. But that is for another day.
Writing the memoir, trying to recapture the past, trying to discover truth, is like walking closer and closer to a crashing sea that slips ever further away. The truth, the never-reachable vanishing point