Monday, March 16, 2009

Guest Post - Pulp Faction: Can it get you in or out of trouble?

By Mary Patrick Kavanaugh, Author of Family Plots: Love, Death & Tax Evasion

My first book, Family Plots: Love, Death & Tax Evasion, is a dark comedy based on the facts of my life. Most events are drawn from actual experiences; however, for the purpose of story momentum, I collapsed time, conflated characters, invented dialogue, and made a bunch of stuff up, purely for dramatic impact. Because so many first time authors draw heavily on their personal lives, I have always felt we needed to create a category for this genre of work. If it were up to me, I’d call it Pulp Faction.

Embracing Pulp Faction as a literary genre would give writers an outlet for blurring fact and fiction, which—if used properly—would have kept some of the big fat liars who promoted “true stories” on Oprah out of so much trouble. Like me, they could answer most queries about story details with, “I was so immersed in recreating the literary truth of my story, I know longer know what was true of those times.” And I kid you not. When people ask about what is and is not true about a certain scene in the book, I have to think long and hard. I was so embedded in the fantasy of my real life—fleshing it out with words and sensory detail—that those scenes became as real to me as any other memory I hold dear. That’s why, for the most part, I don’t believe anything I have to say about my past. And luckily, according to many great spiritual leaders, my past is irrelevant. In fact, it mostly muddles my ability to enjoy what’s going on in life today.

Pulp Faction not only can save a writers reputation by helping us sidestep the questions about “truth,” the mere process of transmuting the facts of our lives into a narrative with momentum allows us observe how much of our lives are boring, tedious, repetitive and superfluous to forward movement. This is helpful in day-to-day living. Through the experience of turning my life into literature I’ve learned that most of what I do, say and experience is irrelevant and ultimately meaningless—that most of our lives are pure fantasy and perception, made up out of the way we spin-doctor events to serve our theories or purposes at the time. Thus I’ve learned there is really is no real truth to my story, or anyone’s—only highly personal lessons and insights. For me, this is good news. Understanding that no one has the right version, or wrong version, of ANYTHING that is going on, allows me to relax more, accept others as they are, and take things much less seriously.

The only area I don’t think Pulp Faction gets you off the hook, is with the family members. I have a very large, opinionated, and supportive family, most of whom, for a variety of reasons, have terrible boundaries. For that reason, I didn’t get into too much trouble with any of them regarding the family secrets I shared. (My people seem to like any kind of attention.) The most criticism I got was from the family members who felt I’d left them out.

Family Plots: Love, Death & Tax Evasion, Mary Patrick Kavanaugh’s work of Pulp Faction, is available through her website at as well as

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