Dylan told us all that “everything is gonna be diff’rent when I paint my masterpiece.” The belief that things could be different, even if they weren’t going to be perfect, carried many of this month’s memoirists through very trying times. Masterpieces are not always on canvas: here we glimpse families, houses, and careers that are themselves real works of art.
According to this month’s memoirists, a surprise rooster is a formerly sweet hen that starts acting like a brute and grows feathers in suspicious places. Cock-a-doodle-doo! Oddly, the first two memoirs I read this month (Bootstrapper and Mud Season) featured a surprise rooster that both authors thought was a hen but turned out not to […]
Some stories of survival leave powerful imprints on human consciousness: a wrist stuck under a boulder; a teenager stranded with only a hatchet; cloned dinosaurs on a rampage.* Such images leave us white knuckled with tense jaws and a ferocious desire to know what will happen next. Still, survival may mean something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other each morning, joining a choir, moving into a van, getting sober, or leaving the country. This month’s memoirs column features acts of survival that may seem small but are in fact indispensable steps taken in the direction of a more fulfilling life.
It’s a big world, and the number of stories out there reflects its immensity. This month’s memoirs contain tales of young lives formed and spent in places like the Hudson Valley, Chicago, Oakland, Louisiana, and Utah (with stints in Africa, Venice, and Antarctica). Was geography destiny for our memoirists? Does where you come from matter as […]
The first few weeks of a new year make for a good time to review the work this column does. Reviewing memoir is tricky stuff, and a review is not a referendum on the writer’s life. A loathsome life story beautifully told? Great. A life of virtue predictably related? Nope. Like I’ve said before: it’s […]
It can take a long time to answer a simple question: What happened? Good memoir writing takes facts and makes sense of them; great memoir writing takes emotions and does the same. This month’s memoirs all take a hard look back at events that begged for explanation. Was the process therapeutic for the writers? Perhaps. […]
Father’s Day has come and gone but this month’s batch of books includes several ruminations on the roles of fathers in modern life and—more importantly—in the lives of these memoirists. There’s a Great Santini-like figure, a gay dad trying to figure it all out, and an angry father brooding post-divorce. Aside from their shared fatherhood, […]