Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why Memoir?

Over the last week I've come face to face with my reading habits. I ripped right through In a Dark Wood: A Memoir of Grief by Joseph Luzzi. On its heels, Susan Cheever's Note in a Bottle. I'm just starting Mary Karr's Lit.

This is not a discussion of  individual books so much as what they have in common: the memoir form.

It could be that I read memoir because I write memoir — or at least memoirish. I've kept a journal since I was 16. I've written this blog for almost six years.

But I may also read memoir because we live in a confessional age, one in which the examined self is deemed more interesting than the fictional character. If that is true — and there's much evidence that it is — then does it flow from a dearth of imagination, a surfeit of self-absorption or a quest for understanding?

This is not a new question and my thoughts here are amateurish ones, but it's that last reason that resonates most. There are more and more of us sharing this planet, yet we know and understand each other less and less. Perhaps the humanity implicit in memoir promises relief.  If we can know and understand another, there is hope for us all.


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