Category Archives: Writers

Liking Memoirs Can Be Really Awkward

I was having an absolutely lovely November morning last week – enjoying breakfast at a local café, chatting with one of my favorite severs, Derrick. He happened to mention that his roommate had written a memoir, and would I like to borrow a copy? It was published last year, it’s really great, and he could just pop into his apartment and grab a copy (he lives around the corner and it wasn’t busy yet). Derrick is smart, so I knew there was a good chance that if he loved his roommate’s memoir that I would too. So, yeah sure, I’d love to borrow it! He mentioned her name, and I hadn’t heard of her, and I’m always excited to learn of a new memoirist. Derrick handed me the loveliest book. A small sized hardcover with embossed flowers . . . all class. I said “oh, this is so pretty, I love it!” But then I looked at the title and my heart sank. It was called The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement. Ugh. I wish I had noticed the, um, obvious reference to death before I had tossed out the off the cuff and downright jolly compliment.

But then I realized this is something that happens with memoirs. Who didn’t love The Glass Castle? But we certainly wouldn’t wish that kind of childhood on anyone. What do you say to someone who wrote a memoir that particularly moves you? Love the memoir but I’m so sorry your life sucked? It really does seem strange to compliment someone on their work without making a reference to the difficulty of the material. Or am I making way too much of this? Feel free to tell me I’m crazy.

And the beautiful book Derrick handed over to me? It’s called The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement: A True Story of Love and Renovation by Virginia Lloyd. I’m looking forward to reading it and I’ll be sure to report back.

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Filed under Challenging Issues, Writers

Writers Who Read Well, And Tricky Questions

I went to hear Joyce Maynard read at Pete’s Candy Store with my friend Billy last weekend. In addition to being a terrific writer, she’s an incredibly good reader. Engaging, entertaining and can really keep an audiences attention. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve attended a reading (toddlers, they have this effect on you) and I had totally forgotten how important it is for a writer to be able to read their work well. Wow, isn’t it enough to be able to write? And she looks really good too. Damn her!

I also just read her memoir At Home In The World about her time living with JD Salinger. For those of you who love memoir, take a look at the latest version with the new intro. She responds to all of the criticism she received at the time of the books original publication. And I think this is probably worth an entire blog post later on. . . but apparently certain people just didn’t feel her story was her story to tell. Hello, because it involved a famous and reclusive writer? Somehow I suspect that if Mr. Salinger had come out of hiding to tell HIS side of the story, no one would have blinked an eye, or been the slightest bit concerned about Ms. Maynard’s feelings. What do you think? Does everyone have a right to tell their story?

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Filed under Writers