09 February 2011
tracy weiner- whose writing biography class constitutes the sole semester of biographical training that comprises the biography concentration of my masters degree in the humanities- once said: the biographer has the power to control perception.
that sounds a bit maniacal, but consider the case of the shitty things jackie allegedly said at random deathbeds.
i'm under no moral obligation to discuss the shitty things jackie said at random deathbeds.
i can leave them out altogether and you'll never be the wiser. i can't remove the random deathbeds from jackie's history, but i can erase the shitty things she said there.
or i can just as easily bring them up and let them stand alone and leave you thinking jackie's a horrid, intolerable bitch. i can make you wonder, dear, jackie! how could you stand at a random deathbed and say such a shitty thing?!
or, i can contextualize the random deathbeds and show you how the shitty things jackie said there were entirely warranted and were, in fact, not so shitty.
i can make the shitty things jackie said at random deathbeds look within her character or entirely out of it.
i can cushion them with the word "allegedly," as i have done, so that before you even hear that jackie said shitty things at random deathbeds there is already, in your mind, some shadow of doubt.
when it comes to your thinking on the shitty things jackie said at random deathbeds, i hold great power.
the core revelation of tracey weiner's writing biography class was that there are, indeed, practices that biographers use to manipulate our thinking on a subject and impose their own beliefs. be that chronology, word choice or whatever. though non-fiction masquerades under the auspices of being entirely true, it truly isn't.
it's perception. and power. and opinion.
when you acknowledge this, you find that non-fiction is surprisingly personal. that biography is more about the biographer than the subject. i've often kept jackiebook 1.0 from people because i'm more than a little afraid of how very much it reveals about me.
i crave examples of female adventure, of women deviating from the expected. because that is how i want to live. because that is, i think, the only way one can be alive.
that is my bias and i have, accordingly, gone looking for it in jackie. a fictional jackie, but jackie nonetheless. and because jackie can be anything you want her to be, i found what i was looking for there.
we've reached a point where i've been talking about this for so long that i forget it is not actually an established fact. that it is still a lens through which only i am looking.
i forget that other people do not look upon jackie's as the most significant female life of the twentieth century. and they certainly wouldn't arrive at that conclusion on the basis of her fictional alter ego's narrative journey through tabloid magazines.
i am trying to remember that. to remind myself.
because there are many sides to every story. there is no one lens that is always correct.
and while, yes, i can control your thinking on the shitty things jackie said at random deathbeds, the story isn't so much what she said or whether she said anything at all. the story is the story of you and me, and why we care.
filed under: biogrophiled