I find it right for Didion to deny that she is a “camera eye”. To me, she is more like Instagram. In fact, all authors of creative nonfiction are in one way or another photo-editing apps. The camera can fix its lens upon the same scene, yet by adding a filter, adjusting colors and contrast, blurring and sharpening certain parts of the photo, maybe even cropping out some parts…the same original photo suddenly has a ton of different possible outcomes, leading the viewer to interpret the photo in vastly different ways.The writer edits the photo according to what they believe and the message they desire to convey. Literary devices act as the different functions in the application; irony might be Brannan, metaphors might be Mayfair, the hashtags and heightened contrast and saturation may act as more obvious hints to Didion’s main thoughts about her topic of writing…and she shares her view with the world by “posting” it.
The thing with Instagram, though, is that people edit their photos to make them look “prettier”. This is not the case with Didion. When I read “That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out”, a scene of a detective-witch-Didion pointing out some sort of secret evil symbol in a photo plays out in my head (like how all those YouTube videos try to prove that the illuminati is real by analyzing music videos and so on?). That sounds a bit too ominous, but to some degree it is parallel with my true thoughts on Didion’s purpose of writing. I think Didion writes to cause the reader to reflect, and sometimes be skeptical of certain things (especially social norms, in Didion’s case), to inspire the reader to look at something they think they already know in a new perspective. This means pointing out flaws and maybe even revealing things some people may not want to admit exist. She re-paints the photo in a way that totally alters the viewer’s interpretation of the original photo. Sometimes she is exploring different views along with the reader, like in her essay Marrying Absurd, she, like the normal reader would, looks down upon the young bride in Las Vegas, but in the end gives her the last say, as if Didion swallows a piece of her pride to give credit to that girl’s beliefs and perception of the truth.
Perhaps it is inevitable for nonfiction writers to “sell people out”. All writers, or at least all who write in hope of bettering the world, seek truth in their works. They write according to what they believe is true. And in truth, nonfiction writers write about imperfect, broken people, people who have shame and ugliness in their lives. To tell the truth would mean exposing a part of their ugliness if that would mean helping the writer convey his/her truth more effectively. It is also this “selling out” of people that makes stories much more convincing. We all know how broken we are as people. Reading about the brokenness of others convinces us of the realness of these characters and their lives. Perhaps “selling people out” is a way of satisfying our pessimistic (or realistic, for some) mindset towards “real” people, and is a way to create a connection between us and the characters we read about when we relate the brokenness in our lives with theirs.