Friday, January 28, 2011
The other night Joe picked up the memoir I am currently reading and asked, "Why did you choose to read this book? Why are so you interested in someone's life who you don't even know?"
It's a fair question. For this book, I confess, it was nothing more than seeing it tucked amongst other memoirs at the library and thinking Oh, that's a nice cover.
Reading a bad memoir is like being forced to spend time with someone you don't like very much, who talks too much and too loudly about nothing at all. Except, when you want to, you can close the book and tell that person to stop talking in a way that we only dream of doing in person. Unlike the cloying, obnoxious friend of a friend we're stuck talking to at a party, you don't have to finish the conversation; you can interrupt them mid-sentence and return them to the library post haste.
But reading a good memoir is like making a new friend. In a good memoir you are drawn into a person through their writing much in the same way we're drawn into a person we might meet: through an enjoyable conversation, similar interests or a compelling personality. With a good friend we can relax and enjoyably talk or listen for hours about nothing.
We all have something to say, don't we? We all have something to contribute. I think those who've found a way to do it in print help make life just a little bit more lovely. Thank you, memoir writers. Keep writing about your lives in your warm, genuine voices, and I promise I'll keep reading.