The Colossus Crawls West

The acquisition of knowledge is not progression from point A to point B. There in fact, is no point B. The Colossus crawls ever westward, overlapping its own footprints, making new impressions in the Earth.

Writing Memory as Fact: An Examination of the Truth and Recollection in Memoirs


Chris Ware’s graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth features a cutout which can be used to build the title character’s childhood home. Of this recreation, the author states:

“It should be readily apparent to any student of the history of the neighborhood in question that the reconstruction presented here is not without its inconsistencies; based, as it is, on reminiscence and fragmentary recollection, some details reproduced may possibly contradict and/or overlap one another.”

David Mazzucchelli states similarly in Asterios Polyp:

“Every memory, no matter how remote its subject, takes place ‘now’, at the moment it’s called up in the mind. The more something is recalled, the more the brain has a chance to refine the original experience, because every memory is a re-creation, not a playback”

So when the factuality of  a work like Persepolis or Maus is questioned, we must attempt to understand where the realm of true “facts” lie. In recollection, certain events and details simply get lost. In any autobiographical work events have been altered or skewed, and do not necessarily match the recollections or reconstructions of others present for the same event. We can say then, since as Mazzucchelli states “every memory is a re-creation”, that the only way to get to actual pure fact would be to go to the event in question. Since every memory takes place in the “now”, we must somehow travel to a point in time where these things can happen to us, so that we may see for ourselves. The issue with this however, is that we as humans possess a variety of informational filters. Eyes see different shades of blue and minds interpret tones and actions an a variety of different ways. We begin to see that perhaps even the “now” is a recreation; by the time the images reach our brains, they’ve already been recreated.

So then, if memory and perception are such flawed mechanisms, does graphic depiction truly alter recollection more than the act of recollection itself? Is Maus no longer a factual account of a person’s life because said person is depicted as a mouse within the work? If we as the audience understand this character to be a living person who is merely presented as an anthropomorphic animal, do we really lose any substance? If Marjane Satrapi did not literally talk to a physical manifestation of God has she not in fact talked to him? We understand in these instances that images have been altered in order to better depict the story. People have been turned into animals, and God is seen by the reader as he may be seen by a young girl. These images are factually no different than the paper reconstruction of the house in Jimmy Corrigan. We understand that although certain tiles and shingles may be slightly inaccurate, that this alteration is unintentional, and that the form represented is a faithful recreation as near as it could be made. I certainly won’t call for an end to fact-checking, as I’m sure most of us can recall a certain author on Oprah peddling a fictional account of his own life, but I might call for an easing of criticism concerning pictorial depictions of recalled events. Art Spiegelman uses animals to depict humans because that is how the Nazi mentality sought to characterize races of people. Marjane Satrapi perhaps uses a rather cartoonish style in order to depict the horrors of the revolution and war in Iran without getting so explicit that she turns readers away. These decisions ensure that the stories, the actual recalled facts, are comprehended fully and completely and are not intended to fabricate or obscure these events. Perhaps Ware’s disclaimer should be present in some form on all works of non fiction, or perhaps, since in recollection the term “non fiction” can lose much of its meaning, this disclaimer is needed everywhere:

It should be readily apparent to any student of the history of the events in question that the reconstructions presented here are not without their inconsistencies; based, as they are, on reminiscence and fragmentary recollection, some details reproduced may possibly contradict and/or overlap one another. Although those students would be well advised to consider that their studies were also driven mainly by reminiscence fragmentary recollection, as these events have passed and any perception of them in their entirety has been lost forever. 


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This entry was posted on April 14, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

Jamel Colvin
Language, Literature, and Writing Major at Eastern Michigan University.
Student of literary theory, psychology, and culture. Strong beer, strong coffee, and 4 gigs of research.


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