Friday, January 15, 2010

Your Life in Six Words

I’m in a hurry — melange, welcome.

Smith Magazine has made an industry of putting a twist on the Hemingway Challenge.

It invites people to write 6-word memoirs, instead of Hemingway-style 6-word fiction. It compiled some of these memoirs for It All Changed in an Instant. Some from names you recognize — Junot Diaz, Malcolm Gladwell, Gay Talese, Amy Tan — but it’s James Frey who gets the best line.

So would you believe me anyway?

Clever, very clever, but I still don’t forgive Frey. It irritates me that Frey suffered no penalty for lying. What happened, instead? He got more headlines, another guest appearance on Oprah and another publishing deal because of his name-brand recognition.

Moving on:

It’s old news by now, but I’m fascinated by two dueling French novelists.

Camille Laurens wrote a memoir in 1995 about losing her son. Then, Marie Darrieussecq wrote Tom est Mort, a novel treading the same territory a decade later.

Laurens accused Darrieussecq of psychological plagiarism. At the time, she wrote, “I had the feeling, in reading it, that Tom est Mort had been written in my room, with [her] arse on my chair or sprawling in my bed of grief.”

Curiouser and curiouser, the authors shared a publisher and an editor. After her complaints, Laurens was dropped by the publisher.

Now, after the feud has lain fallow for two years, both authors fired fresh shots via their latest publications.

Laurens wrote a novel about a writer who accuses her younger rival of plagiarizing her and is dropped by her editor. Darrieussecq has published a psychological study on writers who are accused of plagiarism. (She’s been accused once before.)

While dueling texts are all well and good, I take vendettas seriously. I’m expecting one of these ladies to drop Ether. What vitriol does Darrieussecq muster in her interview with the Guardian?

“I have discovered that literature is a very unwelcoming place.”

That’s it? Laurens said you had her arse in her chair! You’re going to take that from her?

Laurens may have lost the editor but she wins the beef. By default.

Finally, I give you The Word’s words of 2009. (My favorite: gleng. I have glenged so many times and am relieved that there is a word for it.)

-Jason Lea,

P.S. My 6-word memoir: I have not done anything yet.

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