Playing with Fire was Dani Shapiro’s first novel. It was published in 1989. It begins, “There are many versions to this story…” And indeed, nine years later, the author published another version–“the true story,” the cover of Slow Motion reads.
Close to the events–fiction. With distance–a look at what really happened. Younger, the story. Older, the truth.
The time frames are slightly different. The phone call that begins the memoir comes on page 262 of the novel (of 304 pages). The real time of the memoir moves forward from that call, with the relationship with Lenny coming in as backstory. The development of the relationship with Ben (neither name the real name) creates the forward movement of the novel, along with the development of the relationship with Carolyn, the you to whom the novel is addressed. And the memoir deposits us a little further down the line, as her first novel is sold to a major publisher and she is receiving her MFA. In the last pages, she writes about writing the novel.
“I see that there might be some way I can take the raw material of my life and transfom it into somethig that transcends my own experience. I can organize the noise in my head into something that has order and structure. I can make sense of what, until now, has been senseless.”
Memoir and fiction. Truth.