The first day of June and this (not-so-very) young woman's fancy turns to . . . Wiffle Ball. After extra innings this weekend with the family, it occurs to me that there are parallels between the rules of memoir and the rules of Wiffle.
And hey, Mortenson, Frey, Defonseca, Khouri, Jones and Rosenblat. You are not on my team.
From the Official Wiffle Ball Inc. rulebook: "The WIFFLE ball is thrown like a baseball and will curve very easily. Experiment with different grips and releases to find the pitches that work best for you. There is no need to throw the ball hard to produce results!"
"Experiment" doesn't mean invent out of thin air. Plus, there is no need to lie so hard to produce results. Truth can be thrown like a baseball and will curve easily. Curve, not spin. That's what craft, emotion, imagination, and work is for. It's for gently curving truth with the wind of your words into a compelling narrative. That's where home plate really is, anyway.
Here are some memoirists who hit home runs and whom I would draft in a Michigan minute: Rick Bragg, Nick Flynn, Thomas Lynch, Rick Bragg again, and Noel Perrin. And I can't forget the gals; Anne LaMott, Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, Mary Karr and Rhoda Janzen. Now that there is what I call a Wiffle Ball team.
Here's how a game with these folks would go down: LaMott would give the convocation then Bragg would lead off the game with a Sourthern-style double. Didion would need just a single pitch to tap a perfect sacrifice fly ball to put Bragg on third. Karr would get the RBI for her triple effort, and Janzen would show up late to the dugout but she'd have a plate of fresh Zwiebach with her to share with the team. Instead of taking his at bat, Lynch would announce the game in his hypnotic Irish brogue, while Flynn tossed Janzen's extra dozen or so Zwiebachs to hungry fans and Perrin grazed his sheep in the outflied. Out in right field, a butterfly would land on Dillard's glove so she could observe its compound eyes up close.
This game is, of course, fiction. I may have wanted it to happen but it didn't. The fake memoirs we've all winced over of late feel just like my imagined Wiffle Ball game. Authors Mortenson, Frey, Defonseca, Khouri, Jones and Rosenblat may have wanted the things in their books to have happened, but they didn't.
I have no idea whether or not author Tracy Seely plays Wiffle Ball. Her new memoir (one I'm looking forward to reading) is titled, My Ruby Slippers, not My Ruby Sneakers. But she does have some illuminating things to say about memoir rules here.