Note to my writers’ group: writing your lives

You met the Girl Group on Day 1 of The Book Under Her Bed (“What book under whose bed?“).  The members discuss memoir often, hence my short between-meetings note to them.

Hello, writers–

Maybe this quote from George Orwell says more about the writer than the genre, and maybe more about the gender than the genre.  On the other hand, we know how avidly readers devour the “disgraceful,” so perhaps the remark can be construed as both warning and advice to writers, in 1944 and 2014.

Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.  A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.

Shouldn’t we, in 2014, make a distinction between autobiography and memoir?  My heart leaps down at the thought of slogging through a broad “fact”-filled autobiography, even if (especially if) it’s about some movie star or politician.  

But my heart leaps high at the prospect of a memoir: rich in emotion; focused on a particular event or period of time; trying to make sense (for the author, and then the reader) out of something important in her/his life. Memoir is more about memory than facts, and that tends to make memoirs more original and inventive than autobiography. More interesting too.


UPCOMING POST: The next regular Thursday afternoon post–i.e., today’s post– will be a list of some favorite memoirs you might consider reading.  In the Comments section of that post, please do send the titles and authors of  your most-loved memoirs too.


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