This, of course, is just my opinion, and not having tried a memoir of my own, I know it’s all much harder than it looks. But having read, or tried to read a few recently, I do know what I’m hoping to find in someone else’s memoir.
A good friend, Janice Van Horne’s book, “A Complicated Marriage,” relates her life and unique (by other people’s ideas) marriage to art critic, Clement Greenberg. You learn who she is, understand the people and some very well-known artists who come into her life. A reflective look at a woman’s search for her own life-path against a background of art and theater. I’m reading Edna O’Brian’s memoir, “Country Girl,” which she describes with great lyricism and Irish wit. She is not only telling the facts but she takes you inside them,so you know her and the life around her better.
By contrast, I’ve recently tried to read Julia Child’s “My Year in France,” and Salmon Rushdi’s “Joseph Anton.” Who am I to complain about Salmon Rushdie? But I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages, telling me the minute details of his schooling. The reason I picked it up was to learn how he survived the devastating years of living under a fatwa, but I was supposed to care about his school lessons first. As for Julia, I know what a wonderful life she had, but somehow the way it was described just drained the joy out of it for me. It became more of “and then I cooked….”
I just shared a book reading with two other local Los Angeles authors. One, who was 89, wrote a memoir of a life lived in amazing places, but the minute details she felt she had to include (at least in her reading) left me exhausted and bored.
Anybody out there have any other thoughts? After all, maybe I just expect too much of other people’s lives.