Saturday, July 04, 2009

Memoirs...To Do or To Don't

Last night, we made one of our many trips to B & N. It's a good place to go when you have kids. We can drink coffee while they play. And plus we're surrounded by books. At some point in the evening, Piper always gets restless so I end up walking around with her. Last night, we cruised first through those cheesy gift books with puppies and kittens. Then we paused at the memoir display. There was one about a girl being slutty when she was young and how she came to find true love finally. I was a bit repulsed.

I'm always a bit repulsed by memoirs. There seems to be something a bit sordid about laying out all the yuckiness of your life. Perhaps it was my horrible experience in a creative nonfiction class. Maybe because it is creative...you make a story out of your life when there may not even be a story there. It's not really nonfiction. But my thesis was all about this really, and it changed how I saw these stories to some extent. Don't we all try to make some kind of sense out of our life? There has to be a purpose for all that shit, right? And perhaps what bothers me is that I don't always see the sense in my life events. I don't see the lessons that were supposed to be learned. But when you play with those events, embellish them, make them pretty, flourish them with lovely writing, you give them a sense, a purpose. Does it make easier to file those events away, to distance yourself from the agonizing pain that those events wrecked on your life?

My dilemma comes from having written a lot of memoir snapshots here...and from a sort of guilty plan to write my own memoir. The snippets I've written about my religious past spurred me into thinking I had a good story here. For the last two years, I've been thinking about how to tie all those snapshots into something like a story. A memoir, I suppose. Initially, the exercise was just that: an exercise. A way to see what it was like for my subject to write her story out, to make sense of who she was by recreating her youth. But eventually I started feeling compelled to tell these stories. They started to come from somewhere other than just thesis work.

Now I wonder if I have it in me to write this kind of book. If I do will I have to tag a meaning to that whole experience? What will that do to the story? And isn't slightly hypocritical to write a memoir when I harbor this distaste towards the genre? Can I play with the genre and still have something that people will read? What will come from me tracing my religious history? Will it become a story with a line? A line that connects those disparate parts of my life?

5 comments:

Rachel Robbins said...

Yes, you should. I find memoirs to be a navel-gazing fest, myself, and would love to read one that wasn't. You're more than capable, as a writer, and live your life out loud. Consider yourself challenged.

Nosy factor....Was Elizabeth --not Cooke, the other one whose name escapes me-- your bad UMF creative-non experience? If so, we could dish.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

No I had that guy...argh can't think of his name right now. He wrote a book about suddenly being poor...was going to sell his unborn child? Etc, etc. He was a self-centered jerk though. Grrr...

I don't think I ever had the prof. you've mentioned.

Challenged!

John B-R said...

1) If I do will I have to tag a meaning to that whole experience?

No.

2) What will that do to the story?

If you don't want to do anything to the story (I mean, if you want to let the story just do whatever it does), then see 1) above.

3) And isn't slightly hypocritical to write a memoir when I harbor this distaste towards the genre?

So what?

4) Can I play with the genre and still have something that people will read?

Yes.

5) What will come from me tracing my religious history?

Only one way to find out.

6) Will it become a story with a line?

See 5).

7) A line that connects those disparate parts of my life?

See 5.

You're already incredibly brave, so all you gotta sit down and do it.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

I love you John:) H is telling me the same thing....as R challenged me so I guess I better sit down and start writing.

Ernesto said...

Write, write.