This relates to my post yesterday…
Here’s what Jeffrey Eugenides had to say about the whole fiction/autobiography conundrum in a recent New Yorker Q&A (he has a story called “Asleep in the Lord” in the summer fiction issue):
“I’m ashamed to say that ‘Asleep in the Lord’ is the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written. Ashamed because I don’t especially prize autobiographical writing (why write fiction if you want to talk about yourself?) and also because it took me so long to figure out how to do it. The difficulty of writing autobiographical fiction, for me, at least, is that you feel compelled to be faithful to your memory, and so you end up putting in characters and scenes that you don’t need. Almost everything I’ve ever written, and especially “Middlesex,” is made up. Here, it was different. I began trying to write about these events at the time I was experiencing them, way back in 1982. I tried again many times over the years. The Talk of the Town piece, in 1997, represented another small attempt.
“I could never get it right, though. In trying to be true to my experience, I ended up replicating the inartfulness of real life rather than creating a narrative with its own coherence and patterning. Finally, after thirty years (!), I managed to get enough distance on the events to able to chuck out a lot of ‘what really happened’ and write the story. So, while ‘Asleep in the Lord’ remains autobiographical in nature, it’s no longer burdened by too great a fidelity to the actual.”