Wednesday, May 27, 2020

About a fiddler

I need to say from the outset that I do not disbelieve Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman when she says she got a job pretending to play the violin while a CD played, at the behest of a man she describes only as The Composer, who didn’t recognise Beethoven’s Fifth when he heard it. Instead – and her current role teaching creative writing at Northern Kentucky University may be relevant here – I might suggest that her account of her time with The Composer, her poverty-stricken Appalachian childhood, her drug addiction and mental collapse occupies a sort of Schrödinger’s Cat space on the fact/fiction continuum. Essentially, it’s better all round if we’re not quite sure if it’s true or not, whether this is a raw, honest memoir or an arch, postmodern, subtly metafictional conceit adopting the trappings of a raw, honest memoir. A solid decision either way makes the narrative a bit less interesting.

I dealt with this area a while back, discussing Salman Rushdie’s attempts to block a memoir by his own protection officer, which had apparently dipped its toe into the jacuzzi of fantasy; the problem being that Rushdie’s whole career had been based on a similar creative fudging of the boundaries.

Again, I’m not saying that Ms Hindman is playing similar games; just that I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if that turned out to be the case. But I would experience a tinge of regret that the ambiguity is over.

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