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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Never-Told Tales

I'm going to shamelessly borrow from Rachelle Gardner's blog posting for today, about the writing of memoirs. I apologize in advance...kind of.

Many memoirs are begotten by difficult times or extreme experiences, and they're very valuable...they can provide a path, or signposts, for when we the readers find ourselves in an analogous situation. The memoir writer can take us by the hand, and show us the dawn on the other side of night.

In the comments I left on Ms. Gardner's blog, I referred to two classic wartime memoirs: Eugene Sledge's "With The Old Breed At Peleliu and Okinawa" and William Manchester's "Goodbye Darkness". The comments that follow broadly refer to combat memoirs, or situations that approach the intensity of the battlefield.

But the hard truth is that to write effectively about your own past, you've got to relive it. To tell the emotions true, they have to live again. But think of it - the shredding a soul has to go through, sitting in front of the computer and witnessing, through words, a screaming bloody past...and then, hey, "American Idol"'s on!

How do you do that, and stay sane? I don't think I can. Either, like Poe, I'll always have "a demon in my view", or the witnessing will be superficial, a quick opening and slamming of the door before the claws of what lies within can reach past the jamb.

I don't know how writing "With The Old Breed" affected Sledge, but there is a clue at the end of "Goodbye Darkness" as to the price William Manchester paid.

He had seen himself in dreams of the Okinawa killing ground, as the skinny, Atabrine-yellow sergeant of Marines that carried his name in 1945. At the end of his journey into his own soul, he had one more dream of war, but he was now a man thirty years older...the sergeant was gone, and would never come again.

And he turned away, blinded by tears.

That's why, I guess, I won't write my own memoir. The sergeant I was walks with me; together we can look at a present in which we don't fit. I can't afford to lose him. I can't face that kind of loneliness.


1 comment:

  1. Write what you can, leave the notes, the whispers of what happened, to someone. Lock the words away til after you're gone. WHICH WILL BE FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW!!!
    Then have a friend, who is a vault of secrets, write it all as fiction.
    Some oaths, perhaps, are meant to blow away in the wind. Those who took them will carefully earse all memory of what was said, in favour of peace for the time being.