I heard Marieke Hardy’s conversation with Dominic Knight on Radio National’s Book Show last week
She was discussing the art of writing a memoir with Dominic and two other guests, Tanveer Ahmed and Benjamin Law. Part of the conversation was about “how many youthful indiscretions can you reveal without being disowned by your family? Is it fair on an ex to have the intimate details of your relationship immortalised in print, and should you give them a right of reply?”
Apart from being very funny, Hardy is also audaciously honest (always good in a memoir/autobiography). But her honesty stretches beyond self-reflection and confession. The book includes e-mail exchanges with the people she (sometimes viciously) writes about. An old boyfriend corresponds with her after reading the short story about their prostitute-riddled relationship – an interesting e-mail in which he despairs the seeming lack of love she had for him, and is bewildered by her confession of his purely bad-boy appeal. An old friend carrying an old hurt responds to Marieke’s confessional story about the demise of their friendship – and it’s both awkward for being so relatable, while also brimming with surprising hope for social networking.
The Book Show discussion explored the idea of a right to reply in a memoir. Marieke was very clear about this right, Tanveer and Benjamin took a different view.
Listening to the interview, following up with a visit to Marieke’s blog and reading Danielle’s review took me back to discussions in the 1980s about how Action Researchers dealt with interview transcripts and embodied cooperative enquiry.
A week later I was exploring a different kind of narrative. A link from #Change11 took me to a Scoop.it page and then to George Dvorsky’s Sentient Development blog post Propaganda 2.0 and the Rise of Narrative Networks. He points to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s call for research “to revolutionize the study of narratives and narrative influence by advancing narrative analysis and neuroscience so as to create new narrative influence sensors, doubling status quo capacity to forecast narrative influence.”
Dawn Lim has blogged about this call too. She notes that a workshop (Neurobiology of Narratives) held in April 2011 explored “the relationship between the seemingly disparate but deeply related issues of memory, judgment, identity, narrative and neuroscience.” This workshop had five goals:
- To assay narrative effects on our basic neurochemistry.
- To understand narrative impact on the neurobiology of memory, learning and identity.
- To assess narrative influence on the neurobiology of emotions.
- To examine how narratives influence moral neurobiology.
- To survey how narratives modulate other brain mechanisms related to social cognition.
I wondered what a workshop on narrative might look like with Marieke as the keynote speaker, with John Heron as the chair and the audience from the April event. I wondered too about the links between narrative networks and narrative engines.
Quite a journey via a fortuitous Radio National listening experience!