Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Petite Truth

Thanks to some connections, I am lucky enough to have just finished reading an advance copy of Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson. Have you read her blog? I actually haven't, and it was a curious thing to read a book about a blogger's life without actually having ever read the blog itself. When I first started reading it, I wasn't at all convinced that I was going to like it. Frankly, the style seemed a bit magazine-like or Harlequin-romance-ish. Neither of which is bad at all, but it's just not my thing. Then I got caught up in the story. Wow, it was fascinating! Kind of like watching an imminent train wreck - you just can't seem to tear your eyes away. I read it faster than any book I have read in a long time. It also raised some questions for me, as a blogger, that I haven't stopped thinking about yet.

You'll forgive my memory, I hope, and my complete unwillingness to look up actual quotes (the baby is napping and time is precious), but Catherine said two statements to me that seemed somewhat contradictory. One being that her initial calling card when she started her blog was that of unflinching honesty. A little bit later, she said something along the lines of the fact that you can't depend on the full honesty of any blog. (If anyone else is reading this and knows the quote of which I speak, please let me know - it's driving me nuts and I don't want to have to read the whole book over again...although I would..)

Anyways, I was sort of taken aback by that comment. I understand that there are some blogs out there that have more of a storytelling bent than others, but for the most part, I accept what people put out there as "the truth". Or, at least, the truth as they see it. That IS the truth, as far as I'm concerned, because blogs are generally first person accounts, and we know that we are seeing the story through the authors eyes.

Catherine described her blog persona as much more upbeat than she actually is in real life. I found this really interesting, because it is so very different from my experience with blogging. For my part, I write what I'm thinking or feeling. If what I've written have seemed morose or negative, it's because that is how I'm seeing the world at that moment. If it seems happy, it's because I am. If it's boring, well, a sometimes my life can be boring and monotonous. I find it incredibly difficult to write something that is not in the moment. It can be done, of course, but I find it takes a lot longer to write, and I usually end up scrapping the post altogether because it sounds fake and stilted.

However, perhaps her ability to create a different online persona is the reason that she has thousands of readers? It's also probably the reason that she is a writer, and I'm just a person who writes. But I like the fact that on my blog, I can be exactly who I am. I don't have to be a mom, wife, or actor. I don't have to be any sort of 'character' at all. I can just kick off my shoes, loosen my pants and relax. The truth ain't always real pretty, but it's always pretty real.

15 comments:

metro mama said...

I read it a while ago, and I can't remember the quote either.

I do however think that any blog, memoir, any type of autobiographical writing is never quite the whole, honest truth. For one, what you leave out is a conscious decision. Even though most of us talk about our shortcomings as parents, we still want to be perceived favourably, so we edit ourselves.

Personally, I tend to focus on the positive on my blog, and leave out a lot of the negative. I don't want a reminder of it! And I'm creeped out by the fact that people are drawn to reading train-wreck stories. I would never want my misery to be entertainment.

cinnamon gurl said...

I was thinking about this kind of thing this weekend. I think we create our blog persona somewhat unconsciously, and we may not always be aware of the differences between our blog persona and our real, full selves.

It was also a revelation when one of the bloggers I met this weekend said that she always assumes people are lying, especially online. Bea says this is a T kind of approach, whereas as F's (like you and me) tend to be more gullible.

kittenpie said...

I recall some course on "life writing" in undergrad that talked about the basic premise that people present the them they want to show the world, and it's never exactly true or complete, so perhaps that is what she means? That we censor in some ways or turn things to a certain angle to catch the right light on them?

I try to be honest, and occasionally worry that it might not be the right thing, but even so, I'm sure I pull some punches or avoid some topics. I don't write about work much, for example, and prefer to write about good times with Pumpkinpie than bad ones, though I have written about frustration as well - just probably not as much, or not about those small, passing moments of it, while I try to hang onto the nice moments.

womaninawindow said...

I don't have enough energy to lie although my husband did say (after noticing that comments spike after writing about trauma at my place and other places) that I should create a really out of this world persona where EVERYONE around her is dying...then I said, "hey, that just seems a little too close to home..." Then I'm back to the no energy thing again. Why write on a blog if it isn't true? Just publish a book...(OH...)

Kyla said...

I agree with you. But I'm gullible. LOL. I was once duped into online friendship with a college student who had created a completely false online persona writing a thesis on intimacy/honesty on the internet when I was a wee junior high student. I trust people, unless I'm given a reason not to. I can't tell if it is a weakness or strength, but I like Bea's T/F take on it.

kgirl said...

I don't remember the exact quote in PA, but I remember this one: Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

I have never ever read a blog and thought that someone was lying. That doesn't mean that I haven't thought that they were full of shit, but that's a different thing altogether.

There have been times when I have mildly skewed timelines or the most minute of details for the sake of a punchline, but certainly never made up something that didn't happen in order to beef up my blog persona. Plus, my husband likes to keep me in check and will call me out in my own comments. How's that for solidarity?

toyfoto said...

I would agree that the truth of memoirs is incomplete and also shaded by the person's experience, which might differ greatly from another person's understanding should they be witnesses to the same events.

It's kind of an opposite effect of the novel. Much of fiction is based on life experience.

ourlittlefunnybunny said...

I've been reading her blog for quite some time now and couldn't wait to read the book. As much as I enjoyed reading it I was a little shocked when she confessed to adding details that didn't happen in order to spice up a post. To me writing a blog about my life doesn't need anything untrue to spice it up, no matter how boring my life may seem.

crazymumma said...

I am much moodier blogside than I am lifeside. But the blog mood is what is going on inside of me as I go thru my Sunshine Pollyanna day. harhar.

The only blogs I think are sort of full of shit are the ones that paint marriage, life with children as this golden blisstime rainbows coming out of their ass kinda thing.

Then I think liars or really good meds.

painted maypole said...

sounds interesting. I think we as bloggers sometimes choose not to post about certain things, and so you only post when you're feeling cheerful or whatever. I know I try to be careful about what I put on my blog, and the one time I did rant about something (a show's production team) I deleted it the next day. Which, in a lot of ways, is like me. I may rant at home to my husband, but publically I try to keep a hardworking, professional face. So I try to maintain that on my blog as well, even if it is anonymous(ish). Hmmm... just sort of thinking as I type here. ;)

Bea said...

These conversations about honesty in blogging often seem to assume that (a) people in "real life" are somehow exempt from the process of self-construction we do when we're blogging, and (b) readers of blogs are completely unaware of the omissions, exaggerations, and bias that go into any given blog. I don't agree with either premise - I don't think the face I present in-person is closer to the "real me" than the face I present online, and I think that blog-readers who are also blog-writers are VERY aware of the ways the genre shapes what we do with the truth.

bren j. said...

I wonder how much of our blog persona is influenced by who we know is reading. I have too many family members who read my blog and they would notice pretty quickly if something was out of character. But that said, there are a lot of things I don't write about because of who reads my blog. It's hard to rant about my MIL when they're checking for new posts every other day.

Mad said...

I'm way more cranky and cynical on my blog than I am in real life.

I am also an 18-year-old boy in real life. Couldn't you tell when we met?

Mad said...

Damn, I just gave you unlucky comment #13. Allow me to rectify.

mamatulip said...

I just finished this book last night. I, too, have never read her blog before, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if I'd "click" with the book - or like it - but I really, really liked it. It was like you said - once I got into the story I was completely fascinated. And from a blogger's standpoint, I found the story to be quite interesting.

I too noticed those things that Catherine said, and really found it interesting that her Petite Anglaise persona was so different from her own personality. While I don't think that my blog voice is *exactly* the same as my personal voice, I do try to stay true to myself on my blog. Sure, I edit - I have written posts - recent posts - where I've left negative things out, things that I don't necessarily want the Internet to know about, but I do feel that someone reading my blog is getting a good sense of who I am, and of my voice, from my writing.