Friday, February 10, 2006

Mmm, bile.

I guess I'm having somewhat of an awkward time reading Autobiography of a Face because (brace yourself for the cliche answer) my uncle's going through a third bout of cancer at the moment, and at 44, I feel that he's way too young to deal with this kind of life punishment, so hearing a story about a kid enduring it isn't exactly comforting when kid in question lost part of her jaw in addition to her hair.

That out of the way, I agree with so many different things that have been said in class: that regardless of how unique your story is, it takes a narcissist to write an autobiography or memoir; that our "heroine" doesn't have to be mentally ill to sound a little mad; that I would appreciate this so much more if it were fiction because I wouldn't have to worry about how much of the story was exaggerated. I really don't think I could say anything original at this point that hasn't already been said about autobiography in general.

What I will say is that Grealy is very good at bringing descriptions of events and emotions to life, regardless of how ambitious a writer she is or isn't. Her accounts of vomiting until there's nothing but green bile, causing her to eat specific foods so that she has something to purge or can make it less nauseating to look at...I can physically feel and picture everything she describes at these points, including the exhaustion that would consume me, were I to make getting sick the major event of my day. And while I may not understand how reliable a narrator Grealy is, given the time that had passed between her earliest experience and the writing of her book, I do respect the fact that she gives people like her parents human flaws easy to relate to. The relief she feels when her dad leaves her to get the car and give her some peace (p. 84-85), for instance, was probably what most stood out to me. To be a patient in a hospital, or any position warranting pity from most people, is humiliating when you want to be treated with dignity, and I appreciate that Grealy could acknowledge that unspoken idea aloud with her readers.

Do I think she made her family members and herself into characters, though? Absolutely.


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