Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Truth or Dare

I have just finished a compilation of short stories, one of my favourite forms of fiction, but this time the stories were all truths. Justine Picardie's Truth or Dare: A Book of Secrets Shared is a collection of short memoirs from 12 internationally recognized writers; Nick Hornby, Zoe Heller, Julie Myerson, Esther Freud, William Fiennes, Sabine Durrant, Rachel Cusk, Andrea Ashworth, Alice Sebold, Jon Ronson and Sophie Dahl each with the aim of revealing a particular truth.
The pieces are revealing, each provocative in their own way, but unlike the game around which they're structured, not because of embarrassing confessions of shameful thoughts or experiences. Instead, the writers have each elected to explore certain truths within their lives. This is less about confession, and more about who these writers are and how they got that way. Andrea Ashworth language will be familiar to anyone who has read her book; One in a House on Fire, I can’t because it is too harrowing for me. Her story opens the anthology but, while the stories share a similarly unsentimental language, not all the pieces are as quite so brutal. Just as moving as Ashworth's piece, Ronson's funny side of self-examination reveals that the embarrassing and the silly are powerful life influences alongside struggle and pain. Fatherhood is a theme which crops up throughout the book (Ashworth and Ronson discuss fathers and children, along with Zoe Heller, Nick Hornby and Julie Myerson), but its Sabine Durrant's "At Sea" that is perhaps the most compelling.
Picardie suggests in her introduction, that to write personally and with unrelenting honesty is "an act of bravery on the part of a writer, to say, yes, this is how it is; this is who I am; this is what it means to be me." Her writers dare to tell their truths in markedly different ways, tackling their respective issues with a more serious tone that come together to reveal their own truth: that all of our secrets are relieved, even just a little, when shared.

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