Writers like James Frey, author of the controversial work A Million Little Pieces,
have shown aspiring memoirists the negative consequences of deliberately fabricating
portions of a memoir. The question memoir writers now face: how much can an author
add to or omit from a memoir before it risks betraying the reader’s trust in the author,
which is essential to the proper functioning of memoir as a genre?
I discovered I would be unable to produce a coherent or truthful memoir without
fictionalising portions of it in a manner that could have subjected me to the same
criticisms Frey faced. Because I did not want to produce a wholly fictional work but
felt unable to reveal certain aspects of my true life in a straightforward memoir format, I
instead made the problem of producing a truthful memoir the central focus of my work.
My novella, Infinite Regress, uses metafiction to subvert the genre of memoir as
an attempt to work around this issue of truthful self-representation. The analysis
following Infinite Regress examines the characteristics of memoir as a genre, how
reader response to memoirs hinges on readers being able to trust the memoirist, and the
consequences of a memoirist breaking that trust. I then examine metafiction as a
possible method of side-stepping the issue of truth in memoir; through use of
metafiction, an author can deliberately draw a reader’s attention to the problematic
nature of truth in any narrative.
Finally, I demonstrate how metafiction does not ultimately represent a solution to
the problem of truthful self-representation, and I determine that writing a memoir in a
metafictional mode may only be preferable to not writing a memoir at all.