Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The "Expert" Proliferation: Should We Be Worried?

There is a worrying (at least to me) phenomenon out there, and it's growing: the proliferation of the "experts".
For a fee or (rarely) for free, they will let you use their services to find a job, find a publisher, find an agent, find a contractor, find a house, find love—find whatever it is that you were looking for, and even what you didn't know you were. As I recall it from my anthropological studies, this phenomenon would be embodied by a person, or group of people, granting or denying access to a particular culture to the outsider/anthropologist who is in the field to study, live with, collect information about that culture. This person of group of people are called in anthropological speak "gatekeepers", and it seems that today we have more and more of them holding the keys to the gates we need to walk through in order to reach our goal.
As if it were not enough that agents have become the almost exclusive gatekeepers to publishers—these days, even most of the small, "avant-garde" presses don't take direct submissions from authors any longer—now writers also have to go through the services of multiple agencies that purport to help with the bothersome process of steering the writing in the right direction. These services will not only give you editing and proofreading help, they will also create a database of magazines and contests and journals and agents for you; will customize your resume and your book proposal; and will keep these files running for you.

Now, I say to those of you fellow writers who have no time to manage these things on your own, by all means use these services if you can afford them. But let me play devil's advocate a little: apart perhaps from the fresh and expert pair of eyes offered by editors and proofreaders—and you could still get this kind of help without the whole package, or even for free from well-read, trusted friends or fellow writers—none of the things these services can do for you are things you could not do for yourself.

Anybody with Internet capability can research literary journals and magazines; I have a list of over a hundred of them, American and Canadian (yes, I'll gladly share it with anybody who asks): I bookmarked their sites on my computer, and also cut and pasted their link and submission information into a Word document that I keep in a "Writing Submissions" folder on my desktop. In the same folder, I also have a separate Word file with upcoming deadlines for competitions and/or general submissions; and I have yet another file where I track the results of my submissions.
Likewise with agents: once I'd done my homework—which you must as it will be a waste of time to send your proposal to an agent who is not interested in your genre—it was easy to build up a file of suitable agents to whom I plan to submit. Again, there are plenty of free resources on the Internet to help you research agents and write a proper query letter.
Yes, to get all of the above started did cost me a lot of time; but once you do the preliminary work, to keep it updated doesn't take too long—a few minutes a day, an hour a week. And of course you could use an Excel file to order all this data more efficiently, but I'm the technologically inept person who just happens to hate spreadsheets and prefers to do it the hard way.
Just think of all the paperwork the writers of old had to write and keep on file to remember where and when they sent off their stories or manuscript... With our computers and cut-and-paste capabilities, we have it really, really easy today.

I'm not trying to take work away from all the under-published or unemployed writers who are running these services for other writers: I'm just trying to point out that they are offering us a valuable service on the one hand, and perhaps a minor disservice on the other, by contributing to the ever-growing field of "experts" who ensure that the gates between us, the artists, and those who might be willing to look at/read and buy/publish our work become more and more impenetrable.

It's not just about writing, or art in general: these days, there are all kinds of special schools that teach you how to do all those jobs that once upon a time were obtained through the time-honored craft of apprenticeship. Today, this proliferation of gatekeepers and experts means that people with lifelong experience of any given things will probably never get the recognition they deserve because they do not happen to possess the "right" credentials.
In a field other than writing but equally dear to my heart, food, I have for years been troubled by the claim to "expertise" on "Italian" food staked by so many chefs or food critics only by virtue of their having mastered a few recipes at culinary school; or having taken a cooking class in Tuscany; or having spent a couple of months in Italy.
Now, I've been cooking for 21 years but I never went to cooking school and if a chef saw me in the kitchen he'd probably be horrified by my knife skills or the mistakes I occasionally make. And yet, my knowledge of "Italian" food is an insider's knowledge: it is the knowledge that comes from having been born and bred in the country; from a heritage that is Italian generation upon generation going back thousands of years; and also from the self-education about food I obtained from living, eating and cooking outside of my country for the second half of my life.
These days it is almost common place to say that there is no such thing as "Italian" food but only regional and local food; outside of Italy, this knowledge did not exist until a decade or so ago, but it has always existed for me as innate cultural knowledge. From my studies of food history, though, I have also learned that many of the recipes Italians now think of as "traditional" have only existed for a couple of hundred years; and yet, most Italians today think of them as eternal and are loathe to tamper with them—which is exactly how the concept of tradition is understood in most cultures.
This double-sided knowledge—the insider who instinctively knows which shape of pasta goes with which sauce and the intellectual who knows that tomato sauce is a product of the colonial invasion of the Americas—cannot be learned at school or acquired so quickly or easily. Yet this knowledge of mine counts for nothing in today's world: I have no certification, no CV of cooking experience and no appearance on the Food Channel to validate it—only my daily, quiet and quietly enjoyable, work in the kitchen.

I may have a personal axe to grind because I'm too old to jump on the "expert" bandwagon and therefore I might remain forever unemployable, but I'm worried about the phenomenon of "expert" proliferation—it makes for a culture financially broke as people attempt to buy the means of expertise for themselves; for a culture of constant dissatisfaction because the phenomenon of expertise makes the things we desire more difficult to obtain and prompts us to envy those who obtain the status of experts.
It also makes for a spiritually empty culture as we devalue the irreplaceable preciousness and uniqueness of life experience in favor of the quick fix of an experience validated by a piece of paper, and glorified by public appearances.
The proliferation of "reality" shows today might seem to belie my claims; yet if we look at them, what matters is not the real life experience that the participants come with, but rather the set of skills they will acquire and the changes they will go through in order to become "better", different people. For a while, when I lived in Canada, I watched "Style by Jury" on TV in fascinated horror, as scores of people whose appearance, for better or for worse, was quite unique and outstanding were transformed all into the same samey bland brand of "attractive" by a team of experts who gave them a fashion, beauty and psychological makeover (dig getting over a major childhood trauma in just one week of therapy!)

Back to writing, I nostalgically long for the "good ole days" (I'm not romanticizing them—I know that it was difficult for writers back then too) when you could just write, and then send your stuff off to an editor who would eventually send you a personal letter back, with not too many middlemen involved.

I would love to hear from you, fellow writers, gentle readers, to know what you think about all this: too many experts out there? Does it bother you? Or do you feel you have to read and listen to all of them?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Creation Is The Best Revenge

From desire and regrets, revenge will sometimes follow. Here, I need to share a bit of personal experience, albeit reluctantly (yes, I'm writing a memoir and I'd have no problem publishing it, but I find the abundance of personal information displayed on blogs and other Internet sites somewhat excessive). It, is once again, a personal story about love—or a distorted semblance of it.

Once upon a time I had a relationship with a man from an "exotic" country, the one where Vikings originated from. Though in its current, rather Euro-centric connotation this word is most often used to describe "oriental", "Eastern", or "non-white" (I must use quotation marks because all of these terms bear scrutiny and re-definition), in its original etymology "exotic" simply means "introduced from another country: not native to the place where found"; the word is derived from the Greek exō, meaning "outer". I was a 5-foot-short Southern Italian girl with dark curly hair; he was a 6-foot-4", russet-haired, blue-eyed man. We lived in England, where his ethnicity and the odd visual impression our couple produced were somewhat exotic. Our relationship, however, was anything but exotic—it was instead that all-too-common blend of neurotic, sometimes violent, often destructive "love" where one person's most awful traits play (or rather, grate) off the other's most awful traits. 
The boyfriend was narcissistic, selfish and self-absorbed beyond belief; he felt an almost constant need to flirt with women, to threaten an imminent betrayal; and I, from the intelligent, educated, feminist woman I had been before meeting him, was reduced by his behavior to a petty, nagging, jealous shrew.
In the end, this man left me, after we were engaged to marry—a few days, in fact, after he'd given me an engagement ring, and only weeks after we'd started the paperwork necessary to get married. It happened out of the blue, after a drunken night in which he kissed, right in front of my eyes, a woman who was our neighbor, who lived with her husband on the top floor of the Victorian house where I owned the basement apartment. This couple had been our constant companion of dinners and evening drinks for many months, during which I had noticed a steady progression of my boyfriend's flirting with her, and of her reciprocating.  

For a few months after he left me, I was a wreck, in the throes of desperate depression. Then one day I realized that his leaving me was the absolute best point in our fucked-up relationship, pulled myself together and started writing a short story. In it, I wrote almost the entire truth about our relationship, except that, as the protagonist of the story, in the ending I exacted my own little revenge against the cheating, lying and womanizing boyfriend. 
The story got published in a feminist collection of women's tales of revenge; following the fate of many other similar small press outputs, this book eventually got remaindered, though it is possible from time to time to find a copy on Amazon.

These days, I don't often think about my short story—for me, it was primarily a way of getting rid of my pain by exorcising the past: not just by turning it into a creative product, but by re-writing it altogether. 
I am not (at least not in the present) a writer of fiction, but I know that—even though one must be careful with the re-writing act—in memoir and personal essay writing there are equivalent ways to exorcise the pain of the past: by elevating it to the kind of experience that speaks about more than just one person's life; that speaks to more people than just me and my close friends.

Eight years ago, out of the blue, the exotic boyfriend started emailing me; I'm not sure how he tracked me down, but against my better judgement I wrote back, even cordially because I had no more feelings for or against him, apart from amazement at his resurfacing. Then for four more years we fell out of touch again, and I had forgotten all about it when he reappeared again, this time with a cryptic email that talked about all the things "left unsaid" in our relationship. I replied that there was nothing left to say, really: we'd had one of the most fucked-up relationships; at the time, we were both wrong, headstrong, immature; and I hoped we'd both learned from the past. His ego must not have liked this answer because he disappeared again, only to reappear a few months later, when he tried to push my buttons and I reacted badly, writing  a curt email saying "no more correspondence". He replied but I  refused to read it and it all seemed to end there. But, oh no. Apparently this man who is now in his late forties still needs... what is it exactly? The validation, the distraction, the escapism produced by an Internet liaison with an ex-lover of over a decade past? 
At any rate, a few weeks ago here he was again, in my junk mail box, with the unrequited, 18-years-too-late confession about something I'd always suspected and he'd always denied: at the time we broke up, he had been having a "torrid" (his word) affair with the neighbor.

All this is not terribly interesting in itself, because only Woody Allen and a few other male artists are capable of describing their own shallow, banal, conceited, selfish immaturity and get away with it—and with a wonderful artistic product. 
I am confident that a good writer (perhaps à la Philip Roth?) could still turn this story into a great novel, but I'm not the one to do it (to you writers of fiction out there: feel free to use this plot—I won't sue you, just give me an acknowledgment in your book if you get published).

The only reason I'm telling this story, is because I know myself—and I know that, despite all my protestations to the contrary, I would have been hurt by this sudden revelation had I not been in possession of one more ammunition against the willful cruelty of my ex: the knowledge that I had exacted my revenge in a story; that I had exorcised him, his memory, the memory of our relationship with all its pain, absurdity, fucked-upness, in my writing. 
And, while out there in his frozen country the ex-boyfriend is probably wringing his hands in the petty satisfaction of the very idle and the very bored, thinking he has caused me to suffer—or even to pause from my present life for a moment—here in my rainy city I can smile mischievously, knowing he doesn't know that I took my revenge against him 14 years ago.

"Creation is the best revenge": I said that, or at least I think so.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is Regret the Salt of Creation? Or Is It Desire?

In February of this year, the UK newspaper The Guardian interviewed a bunch of writers and asked each of them for a "decalogue" of personal writing rules. (This article was brought to my attention when I read Christina Baker Kline's selection of her favorite among these "rules".) My feeling about such "lists" is that one ought to be deeply suspicious of them, since articles such as this are so banal and so recurring—the stuff of journalistic stocking-filler. Also, the need to know what famous writers consider their personal decalogue is in a way part and parcel of that all-American obsession for celebrities—what they do, what they say, what they eat, etc.
And yet, there was one of these "rules" that touched me deeply and is still haunting me, for altogether personal reasons, so I want to pass it on.

British author Geoff Dyer's rule no. six was "Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire."

A decade ago I had a lover who said to me, in one of his most bitter and self-deprecating moments (something he used to do a lot, and that I initially mistook for literary inclination, then came to understand as deep mental instability) "Regrets are what I live for." 
But in his case, this posture of poet maudit was deeply pernicious, because all the regrets he had so willfully cultivated, not finding any other creative outlet, ended up festering in his soul, creating cancerous poison in his mind.
Yet, my experience—of a life full of regrets that constantly threaten to turn into festering wounds—has been that, if you use your regrets instead of letting them take over your life; if you turn them into creative products, they can be like manure—maybe a bit stinky at first, but in time penetrating into the soil to feed it, so that it will grow beautifully strong plants...

There is a phrase by Willa Cather that I treasure (oh no, not another quote—oh yes!) and each time I start a new diary (I have never liked the word "journal") I transcribe in the first page, together with any other quotes "du jour" that more fit my mood at that time:
                      "Desire is creation. It is the magical element in that process"

So is it desire or regret that fuel creation? 
But this is a false question, only valid if we buy our Western cultural bias towards diametrically fixed opposites. Desire (unless you are of an extremely austere and moralistic religious persuasion) is seen as a good thing in our cultures—the motor that pushes us forward to want things, to perform, to achieve. 
However, the inescapable by-product of desire is regrets: a certain accumulation of them, like dust over furniture, throughout the years of our lives when our desires fell flat; or when we did not even allow ourselves to entertain them. 
Regret can turn into poison and generate envy, anger, even violence. The best cure for regrets, then, is to take them and use them creatively.
If you're writing fiction, you may give your characters all the desires and regrets you wish and play around with them, without anybody getting hurt except maybe for your reader's feelings from time to time (but what is the pleasure of reading if it doesn't elicit a strong emotional response?)
 If you're writing a memoir, you can be both confessor and witness to your desires and regrets; flesh them out on the page and relive them, this time around, with a sense of their contemporaneity instead of their cause-and-effect timing. 
This counterpoint of desire and regrets is what gives a memoir, in my opinion, a sense of the author's passion, vitality, strength—even more than the sometimes wishy-washy optimistic moral message ("I survived and I'm all the stronger for it") that seems to be the requisite ending for memoirs these days.

Yes, that play of desire and regret, so similar to the play of life and death...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Memoir Still a Dirty Word?

This needs to be an on-going conversation, so my post here is just a quick pebble thrown into the pond, hoping to stimulate some discussion around this issue.

The scorn against memoir that some writers and critics seem to feel, in spite of the growing—(perhaps too much?)—trend for memoir publication, puzzles me; but it also reminds me of a similar scorn, that vis-à-vis the medium of photography when it emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century as a new artistic form. Indeed, the whole debate that raged at the time (and, significantly, has not quite died today) was on whether photography could be called an art form at all, given its heavily technological basis and its infinitely reproducible output.

Leaving aside the fact that the definition itself of "technology" is in the eye of the beholder—(by the standards of its own time context, the iron age was high technology)—and the whiff of elitist preciousness intrinsic to the idea that photography should be of lesser value because it can be reproduced, what is interesting is that the debate about photography back then, as the one on memoir today, hinged on similar fears held by the artistic élites of the time. 
A fear to become displaced from their creative ivory tower by the new medium/genre; and a fear of not being easily able to categorize the rather "hybrid" nature of the new medium/genre (and, by default, of "diluting" the classification status of their practiced medium).

Back then, it was the painters who vilified photography (while at the same time they started using it widely as a tool, recognizing its ease when compared with painting on location or with live models); today, it is the fiction writers who vilify memoir, regarding it as a "lesser" and at the same time "tainted" enterprise. 
Lesser, because in their mind it requires no feat of imagination to write something factual; tainted, because they cannot accept that even the "truth" (yet another moniker requiring socio-cultural contextualization) could be somewhat constructed and fictionalized. (On this somewhat endless debate, one wonderful text that collects a wide range of opinions by some of the strongest voices in the field of non-fiction writing is "Truth in Non-Fiction ", edited by David Lazar).

I could go on but I will stop here, hoping to stimulate discussion around these issues. I am here reproducing parts of a text (the underlining is mine) by Brent Staples found on fiction and non-fiction writer Kathryn Harrison's website. He writes about Harrison's controversial memoir "The Kiss" (in which she recounted her incestuous love affair with her father), but only by default; most of the piece is about the scorn against memoir.

"Autobiography was once dominated by famous people who summed up their lives near the end... Younger novelists have joined the memoir trend. But hard-core traditionalists have denounced it as a blight on literature and a turn toward self-indulgence and exhibitionism. This is curious indeed, given that novels and memoirs are often so closely related as to be interchangeable. First novels in particular are often no more than thinly veiled personal histories. In addition, the best memoirs use fictional techniques -- and could easily pass for novels if the writers wanted to call them that...
... the historical novelist Thomas Mallon said that novels were inherently about "larger truths," while memoirs were about personal ones. But what's obvious is that the devilish little girl in "The Liars' Club" is every little girl. That she bears the author's name makes her no less compelling or universal...
It has become popular to dismiss memoir as a way of peddling misery to a voyeuristic public. But what's at play here is a prejudice that regards fiction as more literary than nonfiction narrative writing... given the stylistic kinship that now links novels and memoirs, that prejudice is no longer supportable."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On "Social Media" and "Internet Presence", and How to Write (practically)

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Willamette Writers Group. Karen Karbo , a multi-published writer with whom I took a memoir-writing workshop at the beginning of the year, was giving the talk. 
It was about her concerns regarding emailing, blogging, facebooking, twittering, and all the myriad other "social networking" tools that have appeared in our lives and everybody feels obliged to use. 

Karen was both encouraging and disparaging about the whole thing, but the gist of the talk was (I'm not quoting verbatim, just summarizing) that these things can, and often will, suck you dry: as a writer, you need as wide as possible a mental space made of peace, reflection, solitude, deep thinking; now, these technological tools do not encourage the creation of such a space—rather, they are too quick and too fleeting, like ripples on the surface of water. 
So it  would be best for us, as writers, to use them in moderation; even better, try and get someone else to do it for you if you can. 
Remember that, in a good day's work, you still don't have an unlimited bounty but only a certain number of words at your disposal—use them wisely, don't waste too many on things you will regret later, or things that will not last long. 
Karen's final suggestion was to do your real writing on a computer that has no internet on it, or even write by hand. 
This resonated with me, as I do know that my writing by hand always yields a completely different product from my typing at any manner of keys: something more immediate, more gutsy, more personal, from deeper within my psyche. So I'm glad I never got rid of my old MacBook, and intend from now on to use it as a more modern typewriter. I
 would still rather write by hand all the time, but the thing is that I'm a very fast hand-writer yet a lousy typist, so it takes me too long to transcribe what I write by hand. I have several notebooks full of insights, thoughts, germs of ideas for stories and essays, phrases, paragraphs or even entire pages I meant to use in my writing, yet I have not managed to transcribe many of these into my computer so that I can expand on them, or just keep them archived.

On another level, though, the talk made me feel quite depressed because it encapsulated my misgivings about this technology: I may be too old, but I still hanker after a time when we could just call each other up, or meet, instead of forging connections via email and other sites. Of course I'm very grateful for email because without it, I'd still be waiting for the elusive letter from my many friends scattered around the globe (though there was a certain, irreplaceable thrill about that—not to mention the loss of the tactile and sensual experience given by the choice of writing paper, the envelope, the specific handwriting of each person, etcetera). And of course, without the internet, I would have probably never met some of the interesting people I've made connections with, nor would I be writing this blog.

Still, what gives me pause is the fact that, as Karen mentioned, today it may not be the best writers/books that get attention, but rather the ones that are better at self-promotion. A sad thought indeed for those of us who still want a real depth of feeling and experience to be encapsulated in a book, or movie, or other artistic production.
As Kafka said, "a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us". A tall order indeed, in these days of quick and cheap thrills, when a book is more likely to serve as diversion on the daily commute and become recycled after only one reader...

Another worrying aspect of this phenomenon is that even authors with multiple publications to their name are now required to get on this "social media" bandwagon by their agents, publicists or editors; yet in their case, thanks to their relative fame, they will have an already-built-in audience once they are on the internet; fans and followers will google their names and find their websites or blogs or Facebook page.
But where does this leave the rest of us who haven't published, aren't famous, and yet still need to have a "presence on the internet"? 
What kind of presence do you really have if no one reads your blog anyway? How is that different from sitting alone in your room writing?

Gentle Readers, I would love to hear your voices on these issues.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Simultaneity—can it be written?

Today I was watching one of my two cats—something I do often, as I find it both soothing and extremely instructive.
I've had my elder cat for nearly 19 years, and the younger one for five. In-between, there were two others who are no longer. 
When I was still living in London, my Aikido instructor once told me he had learned everything he knew not from his master but from his cats. I understood what he meant: if you want to know how to relax deeply while also being constantly alert, watch a cat. If you want to know how to look always elegant and purposeful even as you pick yourself up because you aimed wrong and fell off the highest shelf, watch a cat. To be a squeaky beggar for food who walks repeatedly all over her human hostess in the morning until she sleepily throws off the covers and follows you into the kitchen, where you then reserve the right to turn up your pretty snub nose at the impossibly plebeian food that's been put in front of you—well, you can only pull this off if you are a cat.
Cats naturally possess the ability of simultaneity—of being both nasty and wonderful, clumsy and elegant, dependent and independent, sweet, cuddly kittens and wild, dangerous hunters. They have made an art out of embodying these dualities we inferior humans are still struggling with after centuries of philosophizing about them—and the best we seem to have come up with, is to either pretend that they can be sliced apart with a knife like Siamese twins, or to acknowledge their co-existence in a Zen manner but without really dealing with them.

As I was watching my still very beautiful, almost kittenish at times yet geriatric cat, Billie (named after Miss Holiday), who is a half-Persian of blackish mantle and yellow-green eyes that scrutinize me harder than my bigoted Catholic spinster aunt used to do when I was young, a thought struck me: if only we could embody this simultaneity in our writing! And not just in the way of keeping these alleged opposites in tension in the written work; to problematize and show that they are not after all really opposed; but also to go a step further, to show all the facets, the different aspects of a person, all the moments of their life as if simultaneously happening...

As I watched Billie lay at the foot of my bed, fluffy and relaxed yet still alert enough to shoot me a seductive glance now and then with her half-closed eyes, I remembered her as that baby kitten who emerged out of her mother's belly, the first of a litter of five, and the only black one (the rest were all tabbies). I could also visualize her as a grown-up, slim and sleek, aloof, not very affectionate, very feline, very independent. And in the same glance, the same moment, I also saw Billie as she later became—a little chunkier, more furry, looking more and more like her disappeared mother, Cassandra, the love of my life whose loss still haunts me after 15 years. As she grew older, Billie became so much like her mother that today, when I look at pictures of my Cassandra and I then look at Billie in front of my eyes, the two cats are almost alike: only the fur color is slightly different (Cassandra was a smoke Persian, and her lovely dark grey color would take an almost burnt amber tinge in the sun). 
Is it possible that Billie has been pervaded by her mother's spirit to the point that not only has she assumed her features but also her character (as an elderly cat, she is now incredibly affectionate and demonstrative)? 
Or is it that she is capable to be simultaneously herself and her mother, but I only see her embodiment of the latter because of my own incapacity to view more than one thing at once?

This would be a good philosophical discussion if I knew anything at all about philosophy. But sadly I do  not; what I do know, is that for all the academic postmodern talk of the "breakage of boundaries", of the "interplay" of opposites, of "third spaces" and the like, we are still very much living in a culture that finds it difficult to deal with the non-linear , the fragmentary, the multiple.

Gentle Readers, do you remember that old Police song, "Synchronicity"? Maybe that's exactly what those once obscure lyrics were about, were after (but we did not care at the time, because the music was danceable and Sting was cute).

Wikipedia gives this definition of "musical simultaneity: "In music, a simultaneity is more than one complete musical texture occurring at the same time, rather than in succession."
Indeed, it is much easier to find simultaneity in music and almost any other art form than writing.  In painting, for example, I think of Marc Chagall's visualizations of village life in Russia, where he was able to blend Jewish and Russian sensibilities and folk stories with contemporary French painting styles, and depict simultaneous happenings in a village; or even more, I think of Chinese and Japanese scrolls where time flows horizontally rather than vertically, and events occurring at different historical moments can be depicted in the same frame (as in the "west" we used to do in the Middle Ages, before the constricting "invention" of Renaissance perspective).
But in writing? Can we really represent this without risking being labeled as "experimental" and relegated to the ranks of the unread?
It is difficult to use words in a way that will not be misinterpreted, because we are not accustomed to seeing words as abstractions, as mere sounds; we can only see them as either pointers to physical objects, or as elucidations of feelings that the words will help become more defined and "real". 
But is an epigraph on a tombstone really "real", or isn't it just a spur-of-the-moment opinion on a particular person, now dead—opinion which becomes, by the same nature of language, set in stone and immortalized?
I am no expert on Virginia Woolf and would probably be chastised by those who are, but it seems to me that she was after a notion of simultaneity when she experimented with language and interior monologue. And Michael Cunningham's The Hours (with its subsequent cinematic rendition) tried to capture that spirit.

The idea of simultaneity in writing seems to me all the more important for the genre of memoir, because of the way that memory itself works in our minds. 
I realize that these are very unformulated and rough thoughts and that I have no conclusion, hypothesis or formula for anything; but I have been wondering lately how I could possibly simulate a version of the simultaneity of memory in my memoir writing without alienating the reader by the use of some impossibly chaotic or experimental style...

Gentle Readers, if you have any thoughts about this, I would love to know.