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Jewish World Review
Dec. 5, 2008
/ 8 Kislev 5769
If memory serves, memoirs are hot
Why don't we do this the easy way? If you haven't written a memoir, please step
forward. Anybody? Somebody?
Memoirs are one of the fastest-growing genres of books on the market right now.
Publicists e-mail frequently touting memoirs from wise and experienced people of
notable accomplishment, some as old as 32.
It used to be a memoir was a book that a statesman or a person of life-long
achievement usually penned in his or her twilight years. There was an unspoken
expectation that authors were obligated to die shortly after penning their memoirs
in order to give their writings credence. They were books like "Memoirs of Napoleon"
or "Memoirs of the Empress Josephine."
Today's memoirs often follow the lines of Maureen McCormick's new book, "Here's the
Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice." The book traces the dark
and dirty side of life in graphic detail leaving the reader saying, "Macia! Marcia!
Marcia! Gross! Gross! Gross!"
Nearly every president writes a memoir. They usually have exciting titles like:
"Memoirs of Harry S. Truman" or "The Memoirs of Richard Nixon." Herbert Hoover's
publishing house must have been conserving ink because his was simply, "Memoirs."
We live in far faster times today, as Barak Obama has written two memoirs and hasn't
even taken office yet.
Marketing-wise, one of the best things you can do with your memoirs is to lose them
and have someone else find them after you are dead, like "The Lost Memoirs of
Charlotte Bronte" and "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen." Memoirs can be dry,
especially if you came of age in a period of respectability, so having memoirs
discovered after you are gone can add a dimension of intrigue.
You would think writing a memoir would be an exhausting experience. Augusten
Burroughs wrote an acclaimed memoir in 2003 titled "Running With Scissors." A year
later, he wrote another memoir, and three years after that he published yet another.
The man must pack a lot of living into a 24-hour day.
The most intimidating of the memoirs are the ones about subjects that are unable to
stand upright or use a knife and fork.
"Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World" is in the Top 10
nonfiction. It is a story about a librarian who discovers a kitten that plays hide
and seek, can read her thoughts and is mortified by hairballs. A cat that intuitive
should be teaching relationship classes.
If you are bothered by the fact that a cat's life story is more exciting than yours,
you may prefer memoirs by dogs. "The Art of Racing in the Rain" is a fictionalized
memoir of a dog named Enzo. He is lab terrier mix who rides shotgun with a race car
driver. Enzo is frustrated by his inability to speak, and yearns for the day he can
be reincarnated as a man.
If both the dog and cat memoirs are a strain, try "Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel."
It's billed a first-person narrative.
The future of memoirs may be in "Not Quite What I Was Planning" a compilation of
six-word memoirs. "Ancestors went steerage. I take subway." Or "Cursed with cancer,
blessed with friends."
With memoirs reduced to six words, you can easily crank out several a day.
I can't decide between "Cook, clean, wash, dry, fold, repeat" or "Life on hold for
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© 2008, Lori Borgman