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Monday, March 29, 2021

My Memoir Pickle

For years I've been doing battle with memoirs. After reading several in a row that yielded little intellectual value, and then several more that did not assist me in improving my own writing, I declared a moratorium. But, good student that I am, when a few book clubs I belonged to began selecting some popular memoirs, e.g. Wild, I relented. 

Unfortunately, many of those book club memoirs were marginal at best. So I swore them off, again. That is, until someone in my posse or a favorable Times review persuaded me there was one I must read. And though my posse and the Times both have higher batting averages than that of any book club, memoir misses recommended by either of those usually reliable sources pushed me toward re-considering ever reading another. So what to do now that The Liars' Club has knocked the wind from me? Mary Karr's justifiably acclaimed 1995 book has both helped and hindered my ongoing memoir dilemma. 

The Liars' Club helped me because I understand better what makes a memoir great. But, that understanding could make me more impatient when an author begins spoon feeding me their epiphanies, a common memoir trap Karr avoids. Without word pictures like those this author paints, how will I withstand the pedestrian prose of many books from this gorged genre? Without Karr's pacing, narrative tension, and humor, how will any would-be writer whose childhood was less than idyllic sustain my interest? Having damaged parents does not automatically qualify a person to be a memoirist. Writing skill is required. 

I'm in a pickle here. 


  1. Hello Pat. I hope this finds you and your family doing well. While I’ve never been much of a reader of memoirs, I have read a few that stand out. Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ is among the best I’ve read. Is an excellent play also. Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ is a good read and I’m about to begin Barack Obama’s ‘A Promised Land’. I’m sure there are others that have left their mark, but I can’t recall them at the moment. I’m nowhere the reader that you are, although I do enjoy it when I make the time. I just finished reading James Patterson’s ‘The Last Days of John Lennon’ and ‘Janis’ by Holly George-Warren. I know these are off topic but I wanted to offer them as suggestions for your list. Excellent books when you get the chance. And, by the way, I love the ‘Memoir Pickle’ title of this blog post. Definitely piqued my curiosity.
    Be well,

    1. Bob; Thanks for the comment and I'm glad the "pickle" piqued you. I too have read "I Know Why .."; outstanding example of a well-done memoir. Thanks also for the recommendations even if they are "..off topic.." My list, as you might imagine, is perpetually unmanageable. Oh well.

  2. Was that the book Matthew got you?

    1. It was indeed; thought about giving him a shout-out but two of those in under two months (#1 was for the Frank Ocean lyric) might give him a big head!