Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Like a child

The opening paragraph from "To the Reader" in Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, published in 1957:
These memories of mine have been collected slowly, over a period of years. Some readers, finding them in a magazine, have taken them for stories. The assumption that I have "made them up" is surprisingly prevalent, even among people who know me. "That Jewish grandmother of yours . . . !" Jewish friends have chided me, skeptically, as though to say, "Come now, you don't expect us to believe that your grandmother was really Jewish." Indeed she was, and indeed I really had a wicked uncle who used to beat me, though more than once, after some public appearance, I have had a smiling stranger invite me to confess that "Uncle Myers" was a hoax. I do not understand the reason for these doubts; I have read about far worse men than my cruel uncle in the newspapers, and many Gentile families possess a Jewish ancestor. Can it be that the public takes for granted that anything written by a professional writer is eo ipso untrue? The professional writer is looked on perhaps as a "story-teller," like a child who had fallen into that habit and is mechanically chidden by his parents even when he protests that this time he is telling the truth.

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