The latest New York Review of Books has a review of a pair of biographies, of Ava Gardner and Barbara Stanwyck [I am going to make a big leap of faith here and simply assume that everyone knows who they are or were.] In 1988, Gardner asked writer Peter Evans to "work with her as ghostwriter on her autobiography." Evans quotes her as saying "I'm broke, honey. Either write the book or sell the jewels ...And I'm kinda sentimental about the jewels." Which strikes me as authentic Ava Gardner. As for the accuracy of what she was telling him, Evans quotes her again: "It's my f***ing life. I'll remember it the way I want to remember it."
When I first read that, I was appalled. Speaking as an autobiographer who labored mightily for accuracy in my own 800 page "memoir," checking Google constantly and making late emendations when Charles Parsons, whose memory is much better than mine, wrote with corrections, I felt a moral imperative to hew as closely to the unvarnished truth as I was able. It was a point of honor with me not to sugar coat the facts or embellish my life to gain the reader's admiration.
But then I thought: You know, she has a point. I mean, it is my life. It is not a life of Aristotle, or Immanuel Kant, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Sting. It is my life. I have lived it. I have suffered its sorrows and savored its joys. Why shouldn't I remember my own life the way I want to remember it? Let some beady-eyed sharp-nosed hack write an accurate account of my life!
Now, let me tell you about the time I climbed Mt. Everest ...