A piece appeared on The Rumpus the other day about revising and republishing a memoir, “Messing with Memoir” by Caroline Paul. Paul brings up a lot of interesting questions not only about changing how one represents oneself by writing an updated version of an already-published memoir, but also about how the world of e-publishing is now making this easier to do and what that means.
I emerged from my stupor and decided to republish Fighting Fire.
Not only republish, but re-edit, revise and update it. I was a much better writer now. Why let that raw, earnest, adverb-friendly, long-sentenced version of myself linger? With e-books and Print on Demand (POD) as a garrote, I could quietly, efficiently off her. In her place I would seat that wiser, more skilled self.
But was it ethical? I had never heard of anyone tampering with their memoir. A memoir is not only an account of your life, it is specifically an account of your remembrances of your life. So now I would be telling that same story fifteen years later. I was re-remembering a memory.
I’m planning to use this in my 121 class to prompt discussion about constructing identity in memoir and thinking of oneself as a character in a memoir. Paul asks, “Isn’t there a different author (older, wiser me) now? And haven’t I now changed my main character by writing her with this new hand? Did this matter?” Also it brings up some questions and thoughts in terms of genre, ebook vs. book. Another interesting thing is the drastic differences between the covers of Paul’s “old” and “new” memoir, and how each one implies a different audience (the first one appears more mass-market, the second more “literary”)–which also plays into the revisions that were made to this memoir.