NBCC Autobiography Finalists in Conversation with New School MFA Students

by admin | Mar-09-2015

Autobiography Finalist Blake Bailey in Conversation with Brady Huggett


Autobiography Finalist Lacy M. Johnson in Conversation with Jennifer Morell

Jennifer Ray Morell: Throughout The Other Side, there are references to the uncertainty and failures of memory. You write, “And yet, as I read the evidence file, I see things I don’t remember. Like how, according to the police reports, it was The Female Officer, not The Detective, who came out to meet me at the station, and The Female Officer also drove me to the apartment I’d escaped, and then to the hospital, and then back to the station. But in my memory, this role is so clearly played by The Detective, the man who looks vaguely like my uncle.”

While you write about your own memories, you also examine official documents. As a writer, how do you make sense of and organize these different threads in your narrative?

Lacy M. Johnson: As a memoir writer, my primary task is to make meaning out of memory, which is challenging for many reasons, not least of which is that memory often seems hopelessly jumbled and contradictory, and is made up as much of nonsensical images and sounds as the stories we’ve told to ourselves and to others about who we are, what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and, most importantly, why any of it matters at all. Although I would guess that most of us don’t have police reports at our disposal, we all maintain our own archives of “official” documents: photographs, emails, date books, journals, medical reports. Most of us believe these records are trustworthy in ways our memory is not. Memory is fallible, unreliable, shifting. But what I’ve found is that these “official” documents are often terribly, horribly flawed. For me, this is one of the central tensions in The Other Side, because somewhere between the story that is official and the one I remember is the one that I can translate into writing....more

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