Tell all the truth but tell it slant


The Bus under a rainbow in front of Vista street, circa 1970’s

Photo credit: Tom Hicks

Quick trip update:

June 30, 2018

We hoped to stay in Lodi tonight as Larry the Mechanic told me he used to work in a VW factory there, but unfortunately, Lodi like so much of America is ringed in strip malls, chain stores, and folks looking for a town are more likely to find a Starbucks. Credit to Steinbeck for “ringed,” but I don’t have the book here to cite it (that’s for you, English folks). To be clear, this is not Lodi’s fault, and in the absence of a smart phone, we couldn’t find the actual town. Instead, we headed on Highway 12 to Rio Vista in the Delta proper, and we are now in a quiet little place (with themed rooms–we are in Hollywood, and next door is Cowboy),  and ready to go eat. However, the following entry shares my thoughts on the truth and memoirs.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant: On memories, memoirs, and telling the truth

I have been struggling with how much truth to tell, and with what the truth is, anyway. Part of that may be related to our current political, uh, situation. I know I want this to be a place for me to engage with my childhood memories of my father and the bus, and I also know that memory clouds everything. In addition, I’m aware of a nagging feeling about memoirs, tell all confessions, that may relate to being an English major and once mentioning to a professor that I liked so-called confessional poets like Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell only to see the professor’s eyebrows shoot up into his well-coiffed hairline as he slowly moved away from me on the group W bench. Memoirs and confessional poetry are often seen as self-indulgent navel gazing, but all my life I have struggled with that. As a writing teacher, I tell my students over and over again that the truth has power, and that one of the main struggles in writing is to grapple with what we really want to say as opposed to what we think we should say. I’ll take up technology later, but in many ways social media has only amplified the situation of over sharing. So, how much do I tell, and, more importantly, what can you as a reader expect? I think Emily Dickinson’s statement, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” is a good way to think about it. I’m not planning on telling anyone about personal details no one needs to know, nor am I looking to offend anyone. However, this format is strange. I won’t have time to revise much or get feedback from the people involved in my old memories and my new experiences, so I guess I will just have to wing it. That said, at the outset I want those who know me well, especially my family, to know that my goal here is to record this trip and these memories because they are connected to my family—especially to my father—and because I love you all so very much.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Bill says:

    “American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash — all of them — surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much.” – Steinbeck – Travels with Charley: In Search of America.



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