January 30th, 2011
YOU ARE NOT THAT INTERESTING” or….can you write a memoir?
“I dislike modern memoirs. They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering.” Oscar Wilde
Like many of you here at OS, I regularly surf the bookshelves at my local bookstore and spend a good deal of time checking out new releases. In all my years (and I’m not telling how many) I have not seen so many “memoirs” on the shelves. I call it the Me, Myself, and I phase of book publishing; and, dear lord, I hope it is just a phase. Disclosure: I once thought about writing my own memoir (is that redundant?) but after listing five things interesting about my life, I decided not to do it, because even those five things weren’t very interesting. So how was I ever going to get through maybe 92,000 words (which, according the great gods of agenting, is the norm. Norm. Be normal and write a boring memoir?)
I could list the recent memoirs I’ve looked at, but I don’t want to get tacky on a Saturday morning. Let’s have a good weekend. (However, get this! There’s this loooooog memoir by some guy named Bush who claims to have been the President of the United States! Hahahaha).
I’m slurping my second cup of coffee -Community Coffee from New Orleans. Nah, nah Starbucks – and decided to list some memoirs I have read that I found rather fascinating. PLEASE ADD TO THE LIST….OS PEOPLE LOVE TO READ! Here’s my 10.(ps I’m leaving out what are called “misery memoirs” like that guy that fell into a million tiny pieces or whatever)
Graham Greene, whose A Sort of Life is a brilliant fragment of an Edwardian childhood containing one sensational (and slightly dubious) revelation that as an adolescent he played russian roulette on Berkhamsted Common.
Winston Churchill, My Early Life. A life well-lived!
Rick Bragg, All Over But the Shoutin” Won the Pulitzer Prize (not that it’s always an indicator). The author states: “This is not an important book. It is only the story of a strong woman…”
Memoirs of Catherine the “ Great II” of Russia as Written in Her Own Hand. Do you really want to know about the part about her sleeping with horses?
James McManus, Positively Fifth Street. The author’s journey to the final table of the 2000 World Series of Poker, but also the murder trial for Binon of the Horseshoe Casino, as well as the state of women poker pros. . Maybe you think watching poker on TV is boring, but this book is not!
Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings. “I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.”
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
St. Augustine, Confessions . Perhaps the first autobiography in Western literature, the “ Church Father” recounts his journey from sinner to saint, from the boy who stole pears from a neighbour’s tree to the voice of key Christian doctrines.
Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Beautiful Daughter. “The most innocent conversations were full of hidden traps; my parents construed my words with their own idiom and ascribed to me ideas that had nothing in common with what I really thought. I found myself repeating Barres’ phrase: ‘Why have words when their brutal precision bruises our complicated souls’. As soon as I opened my mouth, I provided them with a stick to beat me with, and once more I would be shut up in that world which I had spent years trying to get away from, in which everything, without any possibility of mistake, has its own name, its set place and its agreed function, in which hate and love, good and evil are as crudely differentiated as black and white, in which from the start everything is classified, catalogued, fixed and formulated, and irrevocably judged; that world with the sharp edges, its bare outlines starkly illuminated by an implacable flat light that is never once touched by the shadow of doubt.”
Jack Douglas, My Brother Was an Only Child. Privately printed in 1947 and sent to 400 of his friends, stayed on the bestseller lists for months in 1959. Douglas won an Emmy in 1954 for best-written comedy material.