Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Very Realistic Fiction
I just read the novel, Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman. It's a poignant story that chronicles a love affair from its nascence to its end. The main character, Frank, is a seasoned gentleman who is instantly smittten with a younger woman, Aura. It's not just her youth and beauty that attract him but their shared Hispanic heritage and similar interests in writing, academics and travel. The reader learns immediately that something terrible happens to Aura, and the romance and marriage do not last very long. Readers of realistic fiction may feel they have read this book before with its tender descriptions of love, regret and grief, but this time they can not take comfort in make believe. This story is more true than not, and sadly this is Francisco Goldman's story.
Because this novel is autobiographical and written diary-like, I wonder what makes it a novel and not a memoir? There are many authors that have written of personal loss in a similar fashion and they are more often described as memoirs and nonfiction. Examples are Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking, Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story, Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Pure Lover, by David Plante and Buckley's Losing Mum and Pup.
I am fascinated by Goldman's story. Which parts are true? Which parts are contrived and why. At least its autobiographical basis was disclosed and I know to question. Early readers of James Frey's memoir A Million Little Pieces were just duped.