One thing, multiple perspectives
July 29, 2014 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for non-fictional literary examples of a place or a specific event described by two or more writers. A dinner party, a famous travel attraction, etc. I am curious about how the exact same thing, filtered through different minds and colored by the unique experiences and personalities of the writer, can be interpreted in very different ways. A hypothetical example would be two people attend the same dinner party and write two different accounts of it, each informed by their idiosyncrasies.
posted by Pantalaimon to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I thought Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face — a sharply written memoir of her life and cancer —made a fascinating pairing with Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty— Patchett's well-rendered story of her close friendship with Grealy. Both of them are/were skilled writers, and seeing parts of the same story told from inside and outside was an unforgettable experience. Despite the themes you're seeing— friendship, cancer, etc. — both books refrain from over-sentimentality.
posted by redsparkler at 8:58 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and if you're looking for a famous party that people wrote about, the Black and White Ball would be a great place to start. Truman Capote threw it, Katherine Graham was the guest of honor, and scads of authors were there.
posted by redsparkler at 9:04 PM on July 29, 2014

Wittgenstein's Poker?
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2014

You are looking for Rashomon.
posted by equipoise at 10:06 PM on July 29, 2014

Oops - you said "non-fictional." Sorry. Too busy trying to be right on the internet.
posted by equipoise at 10:08 PM on July 29, 2014

Wow, I'm reading Autobiography of a Face right now and came to recommend that duo (along with Truth and Beauty). I read Patchett's first, but you should read them in their published order (Grealy's then Patchett's).
posted by sockermom at 10:34 PM on July 29, 2014

Just about everybody who was at the Versailles peace conference kept a diary or wrote a tell-all memoir when they got back from Paris. Just a few options:

  • Secretary of State Robert Lansing's The Peace Negotiations, a Personal Narrative.
  • Economist John Maynard Keynes' The Economic Consequences of the Peace.
  • The papers of Cary T. Grayson, Wilson's personal physician.
  • Journalist E.J. Dillon's "The Inside Story of the Peace Conference."
  • Secretary of the Treasury, and later Director General of Railroads William Gibbs McAdoo's Crowded Years: The Reminiscences of William G. McAdoo. (Although McAdoo was not, if memory serves, actually at the peace conference, his memoir deals in detail with the internal politics of the Wilson administration.)
  • The papers of "Colonel" Edward M. House, Wilson's right-hand man.
  • And, last but certainly not least, the day-to-day communications of the American delegation, preserved in the bound Foreign Relations of the United States.

    A little digging would probably turn up similar documents for the other national delegations as well; since I'm going on the bibliography of a paper I wrote back in college on Wilson's foreign policy, this is mostly just the American documents.

  • posted by fifthrider at 10:57 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Harpo Marx's fantastic autobiography Harpo Speaks contains a lot of crossover between anecdotes with Jack Benny's autobiography and Groucho's (and I think George Burns's Gracie: A Love Story, which is also a great read). It's the same show-biz stories, usually about Benny, but each of them tell them in a way that makes them seem like the funny one / hero / good guy.
    posted by Mchelly at 4:22 AM on July 30, 2014

    Langston Hughes' autobiography, I think in the second volume I Wonder as I Wander has a description of a trip he took to the USSR, which is also described by Arthur Koestler in his memoir, An Arrow in the Blue.
    posted by OmieWise at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2014

    The Grand Piano is a collaborative autobiography by ten poets. Centered on the rise of Language poetry in San Francisco in the second half of the 1970s

    I have read very little of the individual authors' poetry but have really enjoyed what I've read of this series.
    posted by AtoBtoA at 12:51 PM on July 30, 2014

    Best answer: The infamous Everest season of '96 was documented by several journalists and climbers who were there.
    Into Thin Air is the most famous account, but others have told opposing tales as well.
    posted by OHenryPacey at 2:42 PM on July 30, 2014

    The Glory of Their Times: The Story Of The Early Days Of Baseball Told By The Men Who Played It is an oral history of a couple of dozen men who played in the deadball era of baseball. One of the thing I enjoyed about it the first time I read it was it's retelling of several important events (pennant clinching or playoff games, I think) from the different players perspectives.
    posted by colt45 at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2014

    There are a whole bunch of books about the fall of Enron from different perspectives. To name a few:

    The Smartest Guys In The Room - Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (journalists who covered Enron and who initially questioned its high value)

    24 Days: How Two Wall Street Journal Reporters Uncovered The Lies That Destroyed Faith In Corporate America - Rebecca Smith and John Emshwiller (journalists who broke the story of Enron's financial schemes)

    Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron - Mimi Swartz & Sherron Watkins (the Enron whistleblower)

    Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider - Brian Cruver (former Enron employee)
    posted by SisterHavana at 1:23 AM on July 31, 2014

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