Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Does truth exist?

Here we go again.

Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, is accused of fabricating much of his autobiographical work that details his experiences building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also may be sued by the Pakistani tribesmen that Mortenson said kidnapped him. “It’s lies from A-Z,” said Mansur Khan Mahsud.

I understand that memory (and perception) are subjective. Three people can witness the same incident and come up with three different explanations of what happened. In addition, everyone comes to the party with a different set of events and memories that are filtered through our minds and perceptions.

In addition, memories are flawed, and can fade. In some circumstances, the storyteller in us might be tempted to add a little drama. Or in viewing an experience in hindsight, we may add a layer of philosophy and wisdom to explain our actions or motives.

So it’s true that when we write a memoir, we share our perspectives. But, we owe it to our readers to fact-check through other participants from those events, especially when those participants may be portrayed negatively. Does truth exist? Maybe – maybe not. But we can always check that those memories are at least factual.

Let me pose this question. Have you ever exaggerated some aspect of your past to make a point, or make it more dramatic? I think we all have. But most of us didn’t put it in writing and call it autobiography. Most writers call it fiction.

Talk to you soon,



  1. Hi Mary. I was saddened when I read about this yesterday. Why can't these authors decide if they're writing truth or fiction? Adding a little drama, or not remembering everything precisely is one thing...but out and out lies...well, I think that's just wrong. I know I'm not "anybody" when it comes to the list of well-known writers....or even "known at all" !! BUT, as I write my memoir, I'm not adding any fictious events to make it more "exciting". I've never been able to memory is too lousy for that! :/

  2. You are so right, although you are somebody! I really think most people who write autobiography write honestly. I can't wait to read yours. How is it coming along?