Walter Biggins at The Quarterly Conversation:
Because our lives move in straight lines but our perceptions do not, we are forever trying to squeeze the latter’s unruliness into the former’s rigor. This, perhaps, explains why memoirs so often have the clean story arcs, senses of closure, and thematic consistencies that our lives never, ever have. Memoirs are lies; autobiographies are lies with footnotes. Somewhere in those footnotes, though, in those interstices clarifying and digressing from the main tales, lies glimmer of the real.
In The Child Poet, Homero Aridjis gives us such gleaming footnotes and green shoots of offhand mystery that we’re reminded that it’s not necessarily bad to be told lies, so long as the teller realizes that he is indeed lying. As Albert Camus said, fictions are lies that tell the truth. Through Aridjis’s memoir, the Mexican writer eschews the straight line and the tidy summation, opting instead for dark flashes and dream logic. The tale he tells of his childhood and adolescence isn’t, in the end, a tale at all but rather a series of vignettes. Some are lush with physical detail, while others are spare. Some vignettes are told at a remove even though it’s clear that Aridjis was present for the events. Others are visceral, immediate snapshots, even though they are hearsay; the memoirist captures the aura of events for which he wasn’t there.
But then other moments feel like a bit of both, in that they are conveyed with such tactile fervor that it’s easy to forget—and maybe he wants you to forget—that he couldn’t possibly remember the event being described, though he was undoubtedly present.