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arguing about memoir

Another correspondence to share with you. A friend sent me a link to the Washington Post‘s grumpy review of a new book called Memoir: a History, by Ben Yagoda (who also wrote a terrific book called The Sound on the Page: great writers talk about style and voice in writing.) The book goes back as far as St. Augustine’s Confessions to show that the memoir genre has always been with us. The review, entitled “Shelve it under navel-gazing,” disapproves of the popularity of memoir. Its author quotes Mark Twain on the notorious unreliability of memory, and writes:

“Never mind that few of these confessions can be of interest to anyone except the people writing them, never mind that few of these people know how to tell a story or write literate prose, never mind that the market is now so thoroughly saturated that it is just about impossible to separate what little wheat there may be from the vast ocean of chaff. What matters is that, as Yagoda says, we live in an age of “more narcissism overall, less concern for privacy, a strong interest in victimhood, and a therapeutic culture.”
I sent the review to my friend Mr. Ch*y, and this is what he replied:
The article makes its point – whenever there is a trend to publish certain genres (vampires, anyone?), much will be shallow entertainment/sensational, and poorly written. That shouldn’t stop the best that still needs to be written, to be published and read.

Mark Twain makes an interesting point. But if one deeply remembers something that never happened – this still holds some clue to the truth of the personality whose memory suggests a need for perceiving the universe with his/her peculiar lens. That kind of memory is very different from a deliberate fabrication or a twisted lie, and is psychologically revealing. Deeply ingrained misconceptions are also truths about our imperfect humanity. All memory risking any truth is creative non fiction. Onwards!

I’ll have what he’s having.



One response to “arguing about memoir”

  1. petersteel says:

    that was really nice to read this blog.. that was show that u work on it… for more information regarding Pittsburgh memoir writing, Pittsburgh storytelling, Pittsburgh corporate communication u can visit

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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