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08 July 2008


Sort of off topic, but I ran into a book club that reads only memoirs. I'll pitch this title their way.

Yes, they might enjoy it, but not the WHOLE thing--some of it's a bit dry. But one or two of the essays might give them a lot to think and talk about! Interesting to hear about a group reading exclusively memoirs, too--is that a group you facilitate? Are there any men in the group, do you know?

That's an awesome cover.

I'm glad you like the cover. I think it's interesting, although it creeps me out a little bit (looks vaguely like some sort of book-related horror film poster to me). But one woman's creepy can certainly be another man's awesome.

I thought of you yesterday as I watched a program on the artist JMW Turner, who, wait for it...never married!

Haha! Smart man. I'll have to Google him and see what I can dig up. I'm sure he had some skeletons in his closet ...

Haha! Smart man. A landscape artist, huh? Not exactly to my taste--I'm more into Munch--but I'll have to investigate via Google.

What? Beautiful Builder was THE most beautiful book I read in (whatever year that was published). Oh no. You didn't LOVE it? I sure did, something about his awful, awfully funny family and Levittown and planned communities.

Now, I have surely missed something --

Brandon, will you marry me?

your screaming fan,

... and any memoirist who DOESN'T embellish their tales is boring or overly self-righteous. Much of real life is terribly, dreadfully boring. Even those bits about David Sedaris and his boil. I like his fanciful parts about the Sicilian's ceiling (pretty sure he made up about half of it but that is okay!) There is an ART to storytelling, don't you think?, one that allow for certain artistic license in telling or retelling events?

My favorite professor emeritus just became cross with me about disagreeing on HIS recent favorite author (Geraldine Brooks). He thought she was brilliantly imaginative, to think of how all kinds of people in various times and places would have thought and talked. I got stuck on how ridiculous it was, to have this ultimate book-fan and her amazing neurosurgeon mother. The contemporary voices just did not ring true... the historic ones seemed too but perhaps only because we don't really know what they might have sounded like?

Anyhow, roundabout, but I think that an "authentic voice", in memoir or fiction, is not necessarily one that is HONEST.

your lying down pal,

Turner was a good man. He may have been a landscape painter, but what landscapes! http://dcist.com/2007/10/08/jmw_turner_the.php

I KNOW you loved Beautiful Builder. I tried to read it, I did, but couldn't do it. Perhaps I will try it again, sometime soon. More later, love your thoughts on memoir and fiction and honesty...

During college I took a fan-tab-u-laz class called "Art of the Memoir." The emphasis was on the "art" - and the interesting part was the discussion about truth, memory, and the blessing of being able to re-tell the story in your own words. So YEAH, the whole Oprah thing has been bothering me, too. Doesn't a person have a right to decide on the more, or less, important tales that become one's life story?

People spend hours trying to decide how and what to tell about themselves on dates, at cocktail parties, and family Thanksgivings for god's sake - and as I recall from single life, much of that is fiction - yet not considered a crime. Like when my future husband told me, "I LOVE cats - bring them over!!" and later, after the wedding, it became obvious that "love" really meant "I can deal with" and was all some kinda sick plot to get me to move in with him. Which totally worked, by the way, and five years later we couldn't be happier.

Although you may already be bored of this conversation, I wanted to let you know that I agree COMPLETELY that part of the point of the memoir is the embellishment by the author. Do we scream and holler when people tell us stories from their workdays, and they embellish some of the details to make it a better story, that they aren't telling us the truth? Of course we don't. We get over it. And frankly, for a culture that seems to want to be lied to (hello, WMD?) I think it's tasteless of us to act like we really care all that much about honesty. I've known some very honest people in my life, and I've seen what it gets you: a harder life and a tummy ache from stress.

That is why I loved the sentiment that we should save all that great righteous indignation for the conscious manipulators of the truth. Beautifully said, and almost enough to make me run right back out and give Beautiful Builder another try.

Of course there is an art to storytelling. Oral and written. If there wasn't, anyone could do it. And, as anyone who has ever gone to a work party could tell you, not everyone has the art of storytelling down. Turns out that GOOD storytelling (not only what to embellish, but what to leave out and how to order the narrative) is very hard. So when memoirists do it well, I think we should cut them some slack and say, true enough.

Oh, Geraldine Brooks. Just her name makes me a little bored. But I want to read some of her sometime soon; I will probably agree with you but I feel the beautiful cover on her novel "People of the Book" makes it worthy of a look-see. Thanks for the reminder! And for the lovely, thoughtful comment.

Okay, the kitties story is priceless. I must give your Mister credit for trying, though, and for trying with such gusto. Luckily, neither cats nor their true owners, as far as I've noticed, pay much attention to whether they're really wanted. They just move right in and ignore you, even when they're sleeping on top of you.

I also loved that you took and enjoyed a class about the memoir. I rather wish I could take one someday, I'd love to hear what other readers think. Also very funny statements about the truth and dating and family thanksgivings...although I can't say all the lying stopped when I traded being single for being married. Don't tell, okay? And congrats on your five years--that's about what we're at too, and some days I thought we'd never make it! (And you can quote me on that one in my memoir--)

No, this is a group of millionaire's wives in their late 60s, early 70s. One of my friend's mother runs the group. We have a lot of cottonaires in my area.

Oh, I left a comment on the RA Online about discussion questions, but I guess my answers was too lame to retain. ;)

The cottonaire men don't like to join their wives for a little book discussion? :)

Thanks for commenting on the RA Online blog--they have to moderate that one (here at CR we have the advantage of being slapdash and not moderating) and I'm sure they just haven't gotten there yet. I can't wait to read your comment there too!!

Nope, not bored at all with this... but I do think memoirists, whether not-too-famous Lisicky or stratospherically-famous Sedaris, are also conciously (but gracefully and unSELFconsciously manipulating "the truth".

And because most of my conversations with other people (sadly, perhaps?) take place solely in my own head, well...I am thankful you have always cut me quite a lot of slack!

rotten of me, was referring up above to Brooks' "People of the Book", do give it a read, I finished in one excited, fast page-turning night. It IS good. Just not "perfect".

Your flawed fan,

Shamefully, what I really meant to say in the first comment but am just getting around to it NOW -- there is something funny about fiction vs. nonfiction... that somehow, in fiction the protagonists voices must ring "true" or seem real, yet in nonfiction, that would be dull and they must sound more lively, more real than (oneself?)

Your inarticulate but trying fan,

tl (sorry to be so trying!)

You are never trying. I appreciate the groping towards the full meaning. I think I know what you mean, and agree. Maybe this is why I have such a problem with fiction? Hard to find voices that ring true to me? Whereas I know the nonfiction is somebody's true opinion, even if I don't agree with it, and therefore deserves a read? I don't know. Feeling pretty inarticulate myself tonight.

p.s. picked up "People of the Book" at the library tonight, and thought of you.

I tried like hell to find this at Spokane Barnes and Noble yesterday - attendant told me there were no authors by this name. Guess I'll order online. Let's do an online web chat/bookgroup...

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