Saturday, July 08, 2023

Did Jesse James Meet Billy the Kid? Confabulating The Past to Sell A Book, or Two

 July 8, 2023

   It pays to get up early this time of year.

Old Stage Road Speedbump

   Uno sailed right over it this morning. Love the early light up on Elephant Butte. 5:45, still cool out low seventies. 

  Still seeking out the real Jesse James.

Daily Whip Out:
"Jesse James In Hell"

   He might have thought he was just passing through but he never left.

Most People Don't Care How The Past Is Remembered Or Even How It Got That Way

   Of course, I care. That doesn't mean I have any new spin on it, or a lock on the truth, other than to say most of what we believe is serious confabulation. And by "comfabulation" I mean when people—or entire countries—fill gaps in their past with fabricated, misinterpreted, or distorted information. They aren't lying they are merely confusing things they have imagined with real memories.

   Full disclosure: I got this term from Marta Boessenecker—John's wife—who suggested the term when I queried her husband about the penchant for so much of history to be retro-embellished. For example, a guy claimed Jesse James met Billy the Kid at a health spa north of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Henry F. Hoyt, wrote this in his book "A Frontier Doctor" (1929) almost fifty years after the alleged event. Of course by 1929 Billy the Kid was a big deal thanks to Walter Noble Burns' best selling book "The Saga of Billy the Kid" (1924) which resurrected the Kid and put him on the map. And, so, to put him together with Jesse James is pretty sexy in retrospect, but back in 1880 it was a long shot, to say the least. So, it seems to me you could make a strong case Hoyt is backdating—or confabulating—history to enhance the sales of a book. Wow! Like that would ever happen in our time, he said facetiously.

    Anyway, this needs a working term and Marta recommended "confabulate."

   One of my favorite quotes, "History is a fable agreed upon," has long been attributed to Napoleon. Turns out, his quote is slightly different and there's some evidence he didn't even say it! So the quote itself is a fable agreed upon. Damn! That is some crazy, conundrum style confabulation. 

  And, that my friends is what history is: a convoluted attempt to make sense of the past with a whole lot of confabulation thrown in for good measure.

   God help us all.

"A word after a word after a word is power."

—Margaret Atwood

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