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Collaborative Memoir

Facebook continues to amaze as I connect again and again to people with whom I haven’t communicated for up to a quarter century. So what do you say to someone after such an interval? Sometimes, not much. But the fact is, sometimes it doesn’t take much to trigger old forgotten memories.

For example, my friend Vic mentioned “an adventure in the graveyard.” I had totally forgotten about this episode, but at his mention the image came back quite vividly — moonlight reflecting off the snow amidst the headstones.

Vic elaborated:

Let’s just say the graveyard adventure is forever imprinted on my psyche. With our trek into the night time hours as everyone was asleep… I’d never done anything like that before… There was a particular tomb stone that you jumped upon and it started to fall over at me… As you and I quickly uprighted it, I stared in affirmation that my mother’s rules and not following them had come true and I’d be punished for it… for the gravestone was etched with the title of which this gentleman held. It was none other than a “Judge.” I was horrified… We may have eluded the police in this late night excursion but I was going to get mine as this societal law enforcer would probably get even from the grave… LOL… Looking back it was probably one of those moments a person will remember for their life. I was such a stick the mud. Thank goodness for your influence.

I find this sort of reminiscence wonderful. It confirmed my desire for a collaborative memoir. At first blush it seemed rather simple. Set it up on a wiki or some such platform. Start with a defined time and place — say Greenwood Community High School in the early 80s — then invite anyone and everyone to add whatever they like. Each person remembers different little snippets, which in turn may trigger forgotten memories in other writers. They can all be linked and interrelated into one glorious tapestry, ever expanding, ever unraveling…

But very quickly I began to imagine problems. Presumably people would write in the first person. That would create confusion with regard to whose voice one is hearing at any particular point. That’s a mere technical issue; perhaps it could be surmounted. The real stumbling block, I think, is that even after 25 years, there are still plenty of raw truths that could wound and injure. An honest narrative would be hurtful; a sanitized narrative would be boring. If you take out the sex and the drugs and the petty backstabbing, you’ve gutted the narrative of all the best parts.

Therefore I have concluded that this project is impossible, or at least not worth the trouble. Which is good, because I have other things to do.

Published inFriendsGeeky


  1. mike mike

    You knw, sometimes stuff like this project just happens, B – I doubt you were reading all of Strohm’s posts at MFT, but they effectively acted as a nucleus around which others posted comments on his recollections and in some cases prompted other personal memoirs.

    OOh! also the Apple Folklore project, which uses software actually designed specifically for creating a collaborative online memoir. Sinclair and i obtained the code with an eye to implementing such a thing for WQAX, but while the SW was officially open source, it was not well-documented enough for us to successfully deploy it.

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