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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Do not go gentle..."



Memoirs are not for wimps!

They are the last word of dying men.
They stand for eternity, trees planted on firm ground, overlooking the abyss.  Memoirs are the last will and testament of those who are brave enough or crazy enough to take pen in hand and committ their thoughts to paper, to eternity.

Or so I thought!

Lately, I've been reading memoirs written by twenty-something, people who have had about a fourth of their lifespan behind them.  They wrap up their experiences  in a big fat ribbon and call Julia Roberts to play them on the big screen.  Julia will evoke all sorts of personalities from all the movies she has done, and voila', we have a rich banquet of characters to satisfy all hungers.

I believe President Carter's White House Diaries and his memoirs are the words of a man who had a presidency that was misunderstood, or over-critical. Why, even his party was fighting him.  Yes, he needs to set the record straight, explain himself, explain the situation he found himself in, explain the country at that juncture.

Memoirs are as real as the photographs we take. The background, what came before and after, what is not illuminated, these are elements manipulated by the writer.

A memoir like Stephen Elliott's The Adderall Diaries adds another layer to the mix.  It is a self-study: "This book (is) functioning as an external memory I go over every day."  (p.102)
Memoirs are more important to the writer than any thing else he/she writes.  Memoirs pin down experiences and feelings revisited and re-interpreted.   An impressive process!

Everything we produce is a part of us.  Memoirs are the most transparent.

37 comments:

Brian Miller said...

nice. memoirs are our last ditch effort to set the record straight...or maybe even make a confession of the life we lived...one day i will combine my stories into one...it is rather interesting to see how one paints themselves within their story...

Ann Best said...

I've read that the only "novel" that's original is a memoir. I agree with this--and with everything you say here.

Whatever happened to your excellent memoir? I loved what I read of it.

Ann Best said...

p.s. I loved those haunting lines from Dylan Thomas: Do not go gently into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Life As I Know It said...

I just heard that Justin Bieber (I just found out who he was recently ;)) is writing a memoir. I think he is 12.

Donna said...

Ahhhhh..."Memories...in the corner of my mind..." -just waiting to be written!! You are a fabulous writer, your memoir would be fantastic!!!

An English Shepherd said...

Yes what do these Whippersnappers know about life?

Wizz ;-)

(aged nearly 2yrs)

willow said...

Heehee, I like what you said about kids who write their memoirs and then get Julia Roberts to play them on the big screen!

ellen abbott said...

How can anybody write a memoir in their 20s? How many chapters are devoted to puberty? Ugh.

My blog functions as my memoir.

janis said...

Oh Rosaria
I do miss your blog! I am trying to get back into my blog world and so behind.
You inspire me so. I love your thought process, the things that you say make me smile, make me think, make me thirst for more.
How lucky were all those students of yours; your friends; your family. How lucky are we bloggers that are Blessed with the opportunity to read your beautiful writings.
Love you so♥
janis

Phoenix said...

I think there's a balance here (because I noticed you tagged Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote a memoir in her early 30's). Yes, we can say that some can be too young and inexperienced to write a memoir - but I think that applies to 79 year olds who have done nothing with their lives as much as it does twenty-somethings.

If someone has had an amazing experience of growth and change, no matter at what age (I'm excluding Justin Bieber from this), I think it is memoir-worthy.

I think experience defines us, not age. Why should it be any different with a memoir?

Hope said...

I would just like to say, I really like Janis' comment and that, some 12yr. olds have lived a lifetime compared to some 50yr. olds.

I wish I would have kept a record of my experiences as a child/teenager. Now I have to rely on memory. Oh, well, it's my truth anyways whether the facts are accurate or not. :)

thank you for your post
take care
Hope

Woman in a Window said...

Memoirs are as real as the photographs we take.

I laugh a bit at this. On my lunch break today I listened to CBC radio and a young man talked about how he and his girlfriend, then 18, were not allowed to go unaccompanied on a trip to Mexico. SOooo, they had a couple who were friends go on a fake vacation with them around Calgary to the Mexican restaurants and take pictures there as though they had all gone to Mexico together. This couple is now 31 and married and the mother in law, the reason for the deception, still is unaware of the untruth to the orignal photographs. I wonder how much can be written that is cleverly deceptive? And too, I wonder how often it is I who is deceiving myself?

I loved your memoires, though, and believe utterly that every ounce was your truth. I wonder on the truths of those not speaking though. And so it is with how we live and perceive life.

much love
xo
erin

Robyn said...

It can be brave for any age to reflect on experience and share it with others through written words, I think.

Yes not all young ones have an interesting story to tell as goes for elders too... but there are some people, no matter what there stage in life, that have valuable memories and experience to share that are of interest to others.
A gift.

Another interesting post Rosaria and I love and admire your thoughts.

xx Robyn

Robyn said...

PS... I love Erin's comment too.

Ruth said...

I think my blog is my memoir. :)

becky at abbeystyle said...

An excellent piece, Rosaria. You speak the truth.

Rob-bear said...

Probably the best time to write a memoir is after you're dead.

So, instead of a memoir, I write a blog. I'm with Ruth on this one.

Dimple said...

Indeed. I recently embarked on, well, not a memoir, exactly, but a blog for telling whatever can be found of my family's story. I'm sure part will be memories, when I am brave enough to write them down! Many of them are too real for that, now.
I can't speak for anyone but myself, but when I was in my 20s and 30s I was too busy creating memories to write anything down!

potsoc said...

Some people are pushing me to write about my life. I don't know that I should. My career implied working with people in deep trouble, should I skip those 40 years to preserve confidentiality? I do have to think about it yet but at my age time is running short.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Memoirs are the way we remember what we want to remember. How does a twentysomething write a memoir?

Susan Erickson said...

I think we all have a book in us....I know
I'm still writing mine!

Cloudia said...

Very well said!





Aloha from Hawaii

Comfort Spiral

><}}(°>

Shadow said...

i believe my memoirs at 20 would differ vastly from the one at 60, hypothetically speaking. and i feel they should be our 'last word', not something we should do when we're still trudging the road, so to speak...

HalfCrazy said...

Hmm, that Julia Roberts movie.. I'm not really thinking of watching it, maybe reading the book, yeah.

I loved everything you said! I've read like 2 or 3 memoirs and it's just absorbing, no matter what.

Arkansas Patti said...

I'm with Ruth also, blogging is another name for a memoir. I know that is the intent of mine.

Eva Gallant said...

I, too, chuckle at the thought of someone twenty-something writing their memoir; what a joke. I much preferred reading "When I Was Your Age." That was a truly interesting and inspiring memoir!

lakeviewer said...

For those of you who are new to my posts, I confess, I too have written a series of stories about my life and the lives of my ancestors. ( My blog, When I was Your Age, still open if you are curious!) I experienced revelations and utter despair reliving certain times. I could not have done that, written and reflected on the past, had I not
had distance from those events.


Distance helps us get a different perspective. For instance, the way I organized the entire set of stories I wrote, mine and those of my ancestors, came from the perspective of my now idyllic life. I felt I had all those years and people who, for better or worse, with complicity or not, help me get to the point where I could leisurely say, yes, we all looked forward to this minute, to one of us Making to America. It was the dream of generations, and I am living proof of what perseverance, hard work, and sheer determination can accomplish.

At my age, as well, I no longer have rose-colored glasses. My sufferings, my losses have been the price of getting to and surviving in America.

All the people that I spoke about, except for my brothers, my husband and me, they are all deceased. I did not paint them/us in glowing colors, as I might have been tempted to do if they were still alive. I treated everyone as characters in the bigger story, as flawed and as lovable as any character can be and still be human.

Thanks for stopping by.

Enchanted Oak said...

I understand people wanting to leave some kind of record of who they are and suggestions of how they got that way. I like your musings.

Zeusiswatching said...

Not ready to write a memoir myself. I am glad that there are people writing them still.

A memoir reminds me of a self-portrait. Only so many people can be painters in the first place, but a self portrait is almost a statement about the very beliefs and the health of a painter's own soul. I think this is true of memoirs also, even when the memoirs are clearly fashioned to justify a writer's choices in life that have clearly been rejected by the author's contemporaries.

Snowbrush said...

I rather doubt that anyone would be interested in my memoirs. I've had an unusual life in many ways, but it seems to me that memoirs go over best when they're preceded by fame rather than the other way around.

Dumdad said...

I've used my blog as a memoir for some reflections on bits of my life (My First Newspaper, Fleet Street tales etc) and I'm glad I did. I wouldn't have sat down and written them just for myself, although they are really just for myself!

Therese said...

Thank you, Rosaria, for your excellent thoughts. Memoirs span the generations. Why can't a young person write a rigorously honest self-examination of their (hopefully diverse and rich) experiences? I like the term "creative nonfiction" for "memoir."

Rachel Cotterill said...

I once heard it said: if you want to be writer, don't write your memoirs. There's too much material in your life to waste on just one book.

Maybe that's why it's possible to fill 400 pages in your twenties....

Cloudia said...

we want a new post :)

lakeviewer said...

I'm so glad the young people got in the conversation. Yes, indeed, you have a lot to say!
Thanks everyone.
And now, I'll heed Cloudia's advice for a new post.

RNSANE said...

It took me till the age of 65 to get my first book of poetry published. I think I'm going to have to pass on my memoirs.

Vagabonde said...

My two daughters wished that I write a memoir about my youth in France and coming to America. I just did not feel like writing such a long and boring tale, and in English too. So elder daughter suggested that I write a blog and talk about my recollections, whenever I felt like it. In my blog I enjoy writing about my travels but once in a while I try to get back to my family. So far I am only at my mother’s youth, so I have a lot more to do to get to my coming to America!