Inventing the Self

A mosaic of anecdotes…

November 5th, 2013 by Alessandro Mitrotti · 2 Comments

I agree with John’s post that 2500 Random things About Me Too was “amazing fun to read.” I was so taken by this text that I brought it to my high school English class. After a quick reading of several lists, the kids excitedly cobbled together their own lists of 25 random things on the first day and set about on a second set today. It was not really surprising how quickly this group of 15 and 16 year olds took to the project, or how quickly they fell into the groove of writing in this style, breaking up anecdotes over several lines, engaging in witty word play, adding decidedly non-school-appropriate bits, but rather how eager they were to read their pieces aloud. The project was as much a game, as it was a writing exercise, as much forum as an act of memoir, and I took this eagerness to share their work as an indication of what Miller says memoir is about, namely “a rendezvous with others.” (2)

Viegener’s book taps into something that’s very much floating the social network ethos and fashions into art.  It is a collection of self-affirming statements, some memoir, some vaguely philosophical, some straight forward and humorous, even meta-textual:

1.When you list things everyday you create both a ritual and a vacuum. Every day you fill the vacuum and every next day it’s back. (liv pg. 139)

It is a mosaic of anecdotes from which Veigener fashions a portrait of self and takes what Miller calls “the well-worn culture of “me,” given an expansive new currency by the infamous baby boomers who can think of nothing else,” (12) to a different level.    Miller also says “if there is a lesson in the memoir genre, it’s that we all have flashes. Precious as they are, those flashes only take on meaning within a story.” (22) Flashes seem an apt descriptor for Viegener’s entries, but what we can make of his story, I’m not quite sure…

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Shona Mari Sapphire // Nov 5th 2013 at 8:45 pm

    I also felt it was difficult to know what could be taken from Viegner’s story. But was it meant to even be read as a such? Although there were moments of engaging clarity within the “randomness”, I am not sure the daily jot marks on his facebook page encompass a coherent autobiographical account? I think it is great that your student’s imaginations were captivated by the book and it does seem like it would make an accessible and fun classroom exercise. To me, it seems the limited capacity to understand one’s own story internally, before public broadcast might inhibit the “interactive remembering” Miller talks about. How much does the hyper-externalization of self-understanding dilute its meaning? I wonder what the effect of our exploding public communication arena has or will have on one’s ability to develop coherent personal myths, autobiographical accounts and memoires?

  • Yitian Liao // Nov 6th 2013 at 11:44 am

    Actually, you can conduct a story, based on those details he provides. But there won’t be a uniquely correct answer. While we THINK we structure the story of HIM, we are actually making story of our own. The 2,500 things from Viegener are the puzzle pieces. The way we understand them, the way we line them up, and the way we decide which thing we want and which not, these are decisions we make and reflect our thoughts, which interpret our “self”. I believe most of us will choose things similar to us to build the story because it may be easier to conduct a logic story if we have similar experience. And what I believe here also presents I’m someone like to do things that is not totally a brand new challenge. Someone who is not like this will choose another way to do it. I think every action or decision we do contains a meaning, and it is the representation of self or at least the surface of “self”.

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