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writing truth

Memoir Writing and Truth: Revisited

by Matilda Butler on October 2, 2012

catnav-alchemy-activePost #61 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Finding Truth for Your Memoir

Annibel Cone, Gertrude Stein, Etta Cone  (creative commons photo)

Claribel Cone, Gertrude Stein, Etta Cone (creative commons photo)

Recently, while I was in Vancouver, BC, I saw a special exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery called “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore.” Claribel and Etta Cone, residents of Baltimore, Maryland, began collecting art for their apartments in the late 1800s. By 1903, they were traveling to Paris where they became friends with Gertrude Stein and other influentials.

In 1906, Etta Cona met Henri Matisse and began purchasing his art. Although the collection put together by these two women eventually included works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and other Impressionists, it is the work of Henri Matisse that is perhaps the most significant. It is the largest collection of his work, totaling more than 500 pieces.

The Vancouver exhibit featured the Matisse portion of the Cone collection.

As I walked through the museum, I saw one sign showcasing a Matisse quote:

“Exactitude is not truth, Delacroix liked to say.”

Because Kendra and I often get questions about truthtelling in memoir writing, I thought this quote might give us something to ponder.

Can you be exact and yet not be telling even the literal truth? Let’s examine Eugene Delacroix since this quote seems to originally come from him. If he told you he is Eugene Delacroix, he is being exact. Yet is this the whole truth? It is now thought that his father — Charles-François Delacroix — was infertile and his biological father was Talleyrand. Talleyrand was a friend and became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in France after Charles-François Delacroix left that post.

Can you be exact, stating that it was a beautiful warm summer day when the internal truth was that your heart was in the depth of winter?

There are levels to truth and memoir needs to dig for your personal truth. It is more than exactitude.

I hope Matisse and Delacroix have given you a different way to consider truth in your memoir writing. For examine, might your readers understand even more about you if they knew both the outer and inner weather? Might the contrast sharpen your focus?

LOGO-BAR-NEW

We welcome your thoughts on memoir and truth. Just leave us a note in the Comments section below.

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Stephen King and Virginia Woolf Agree on This Advice

by Matilda ButlerDecember 19, 2010
Stephen King and Virginia Woolf Agree on This Advice

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is the inspiration for this week’s Writing Tip Video. See if you have the basics for your writing life.

Read the full article →
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