So I went to this writer’s social.
A get-together for socializing about writing, with writers, by writers. What was the major topic of conversation? Politics and Weiner. Phhhzztt on both counts. It was enjoyable but the “writery” topics kept getting sidelined but gossipy political stuff and that was a bummer.
What makes public figures lose their ability to judge whether something is a good idea. You’re a public figure for heaven’s sake, keep your panties up and the cameras down. No matter how excited you are about sharing, chances are it’ll come back on you (allow me to refer you to a previous post: Famous People I Know). The digital age is unforgiving – words and pictures will haunt you long after the deeds are forgotten.
Some of the other topics that were sideswiped as people came and went with cocktails in hand included: print v. e-books, fibbing v. embellishing in memoir, and reading groups.
I just can’t get excited about the first argument. I’ll take books in any form. For many years I collected old books, rare ones. Not so many first editions, although I had a few – but mostly lovely leather books with embossed covers and silk liners that smelled wonderful and felt substantial in your hands. I particularly favored the ones from the eighteenth century. Those kinds of books are sexy. My first eReader was the Sony version, a lovely device that compared to the more recent additions has now been relegated to the realm of palaeontology. I loved being able to haul along all my favorite reads, and in the early years it was tough finding electronic versions of books. I do find the text on tiny screens (MP3 players and smart phones) a bit more challenging now that my eyes are older and more tired.
Memoir puzzles me in all forms. I know there are people in the world who do wonderful things, make a difference in people’s lives, alter and achieve and transform. That’s nifty. I like to read about those folks. Occasionally I like to read the stories of people who lived through, survived or managed to muscle through circumstances that would fell a herd of elephants. Those stories make me appreciate how simple, blessed and easy my life has been. But mostly, I don’t get memoir. There is a voyeuristic quality to much of it that reminds me of blurry snapshots in dirty alleys. Is it really that big a stretch to find that many memoirists have stretched the truth? Most people do not live particularly interesting lives but they think they do. The best memoir I’ve read was written by a very old man named Howard Crow. He was the friend of a friend. He wrote the memories of his long life for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It was never intended to be published. I wangled a spiral bound copy because I knew him. I met him when he was in his eighties – and had I never read those words, I’d have missed out on a wonderful journey. That has always made me wonder about all the stories that don’t get told by the people who think their path has not been worth sharing. Sometimes the silent voice has the most to tell.
I can’t really comment on reading groups or critique groups. In the rural community where I reside you read whatever books come your way – seldom what is on the “current” list. I’ve never been part of a reading club unless you count one friend I used to swap books with. Critique partners? Hah.
So this is the reason I like the Writer’s Social. Next month I’ll get in my zippy car and motor down the interstate to McMenamin’s and immerse myself in “writerliness”. Hopefully by then the underwear-clad exhibitionist political posturing will be played out and we can focus on such important topics as Lady Gaga being the next Oprah. Yeah, that one took me by surprise too. WTF?
#1 by Annette Gendler on August 2, 2011 - 2:11 pm
Sounds to me like you've read a bunch of bad memoirs – I don't like the voyeuristic ones either. And there are probably too many out there but it's a wonderful genre. You should explore it more. Just think about all the books that have "novel" stamped on them, the variety is tremendous. Same for memoir.
#2 by Lesann Berry on August 3, 2011 - 7:55 am
Your exactly right, Annette. I haven't read a lot of memoir and I know there are really great ones, I just seem to find the ones which are lesser so. Like novels (of which there are a great many lesser ones too) it takes perseverence to search out the ones you really enjoy. I think memoir to me also represents reality and events (good and bad) that happen to real people – the potential for unhappiness seems greater in memoir and when I'm reading for entertainment its seldom my first choice.Of course I just got off a 22 hour train ride where I spent ALL 22 hours with a guy forcefeeding me his life story…I'd have gladly traded the oral exposition for a written form I could have scanned through!