Tuesday, June 21, 2005

If, like me, you've come upon this concoction of a word, autohaigiogrpahy, and immediately concocted a vision of
1) A Car
2) An older woman blessed with minimal personal beauty
3) A story of sadness involving #1 & #2,
then, it must have been a surprise for you as well when you found out the true meaning of the word. As per World Wide Words, Autohagiography
"has the same relationship to autobiography as a publicist’s puffery has to objective truth. So far as I know it hasn’t yet reached the pages of any major dictionary, being one of those words that lurks unnoticed in the linguistic undergrowth, only occasionally emerging to startle the unwary reader. The first use of it I can trace is in the title of the book The Confessions of Aleister Crowley; An Autohagiography, which was published in 1970. I’ve also seen the adjective autohagiographical, but it seems to be rare to the point where it is reinvented each time it’s used. The root word hagiography comes from the Greek agios, “holy”, and was at first applied to books which described the lives of the saints. Such books had a marked tendency towards uncritical descriptions. So sometime about the end of last century hagiography broadened its sense to that of any biographical work that flatters or idolises its subject."

Why am I even bringing up autohagiography? At Outer Life's self description, his "One-Line Bio" starts with

"Outer Life is an autohagiography and a history of today, custom-crafted in the form of decorative word arrangements delivered directly to your screen. And best of all, it's free!"

Why was I pursuing this? Well, Mr. Outer Life's entry for today screams for additional information, so off I scooted in his other info areas. No clues, but a new word and a slew of new worries. Hope all is going well over there in the land of the Orchid Eaters.

I think that autohagiography encapsulates the kind of autobiography I like best - those mysterious, exagerrated lives, not altogether non-fictional, that contrive to paint a larger-than-life and highly enjoyable portrait?

However, there is a delicate balance between "amusing" and "ridiculous": a definitive autohagiography would paint oneself a saint. These are to be discarded in disgust. A good one, however, would color oneself rather differently - mysteriously, hints of darkness. Believably so, that a reader is left to wonder "can that be true?" but unable to answer.
Agreed, better to be an autohagiographist than whatever the the opposite would be called: a neurotic, I suppose.
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