Thursday, December 1, 2011

(no) Thanks for the Memoirs

Have you  noticed how many people have written memoirs or are in the midst of writing memoirs?  It's awe-inspiring or groan-inducing, depending on how you look at it.

I can't believe that many people had such shitty childhoods and that they feel compelled to write about them, and air all their dirty laundry.  I'm feeling rather inadequate about my own normal childhood.  Sure we had some problems but nothing to write home about....or a book about for that matter.

I've read a few of these memoirs.  Some, I couldn't get through like Don't Let the Dogs Go to Africa (or whatever the title of that book was).  Some, I managed to finish like the The Glass Castle.  That woman's  childhood makes me wonder if her editor was James Frye.  Or, how about Dave Eggers' first book about being a Heart-Breaking Genius?  I've heard a lot about Mr. Eggers through the years and he may be the greatest writer of our generation but I won't read him because that book bored me to tears.  It's like these authors had such horrible things happen to them--beyond their control of course--and yet somehow they managed to become these amazing, giving, wonderful people.  Are they blowing smoke up their own ass because no on else will?

And that just produced an image for me that I would like to forget.

This from a girl who adores biography.  I guess it's okay if someone else writes about you but when you do it yourself, I tend to wonder.  Unless of course you are David Sedaris, and throw in humour and, most likely, quite a bit of exaggeration 

I have liked some memoirs, believe it or not.  I rather enjoyed Ruth Reichl's books about learning to cook.  Although I'll admit that I only read 2 or 3 of them.  Enough Ruth!  Julia Child you are not.  Now, that's a memoir that I loved:  My Life in France.  Dude, it's Julia; how do you not want to read it?  But now, of course, everyone who has ever stepped foot into a kitchen is writing a memoir.  When you do what Julia Child did, I will read your book.

And, before you even mention it, No!  I did not read the Julie and Julia book.  This woman opens up a cookbook, follows some recipes, and people pay her tons of money.  Okay, I'll admit that maybe I'm a tad jealous that she got paid for making dinner.

I do like actors' memoirs like Sir Alec Guinness' My Name Escapes Me.  I saw him on stage once.  He was doing a play in London with Edward Herrmann (of The Lost Boys).  It was Lee Blessings' A Walk in The Woods.  It's a great play and I can attest to it because I saw it years later with regular actors in it and it was still good.  Anyway, after the show (in London) we waited by the stagedoor for the actors to come out.  It was a small crowd of only a few Americans.  Londoners don't do this, I guess.  Anyway, Edward Herrmann came out and chatted with us and walked on.  Then, And Then....Sir Alec came out.  Everyone gasped and took a step back and stared dumbfounded.  He shrugged, put his cigar in his mouth, and moseyed on down the street.  The stage manager popped out, looked at us, and said, "You have to actually talk to him if you want an autograph."  Several in the crowd ran down the street after Sir Alec.  When I told my mom this story she sighed and said, "Oh, he was smoking, I don't like to hear that."  

I cannot make this stuff up.  I'll have to put it in my memoir:  "Confessions of a Lady Curmudgeon" or "Who Took my Cocktail" or "From Vermont to Philly to Stoli" or "Stage Manage This."    These are just a few title ideas I'm throwing around.  Don't worry, I'll get Mr. Sedaris AND Mr. Frye to edit it.


  1. i do want to read the book on steve jobs...know it is not written by him but the guy that wrote banjamin franklin which i keroac's books too...


  2. Hi Kate! I have the book "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood". Is this the one to which you refer? I bought it used a year ago and it's in a stack. I began reading it then was sidetracked. Why didn't you like it?

    I also have "The Glass Castle" in a stack. I read it's her follow up "Half Broke Horses", about her grandmother, and loved it. My MIL read both and thought the Castle memoir about her parents was a pain. I'll read it anyway.

    One of my favorite memoirs ever is "Tender Bar". It's a stunner. You should read it. the author was later asked to write Andre Agassi's bio w/ Andre's help. Haven't read it yet but I'm sure I'll like it as I love Andre and I love the writer, J.R. Moehringer.

    You are right about the angst of many memoirs. I love biographies, autobios, memoirs. I stay away from the ones that sound self-serving. For example, Dyan Cannon's new memoir "Dear Cary" sound super self-indulgent; designed to reintroduce her to the public thanks to Cary Grant's aura. On the other hand, Judy Collins and Diane Keaton have new memoirs out and they sound really good.

  3. I second The Silver Fox. That title is all you.

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