Law and Conversation

March 19, 2010

Eleven great memoirs

For literary pundits, the memoir genre is one of the subjects du jour.  I’ve been listening to serious debates on a number of podcasts on whether it’s OK for writers to include fictional events in books that they then dub as “memoirs.”  One memoirist referred to her own as “true,” but not necessarily “factual,” a distinction that I frankly don’t buy (much as I did enjoy her books).

Here are eleven memoirs I’ve enjoyed and which, as far as I can tell, are both truthful and factual:

 “How I Became Hettie Jones,” by writer Hettie Jones, who married LeRoi Jones, n/k/a Amiri Baraka.

“Minor Characters,” by the writer Joyce Johnson, who was a minor character in Jack Kerouac’s life, though he was a major character in hers.

“Shakespeare and Company,” by that Parisian bookshop’s owner, Sylvia Beach, who published James Joyce’s “Ulysses” when nobody else would (and who largely supported Joyce and his family while they were in Paris).

“Baltimore’s Mansion,” by Canadian writer Wayne Johnston, about growing up in Newfoundland.

“Wishful Drinking,” by Carrie Fisher, a delightful transcription of her current standup routine.

“Love By The Glass,” by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, a married couple who write for twelve years, until December 2009, wrote the wine column for The Wall Street Journal.

“The Road From Coorain,” by Jill Ker Conway, president of Smith College from 1975-1985, now a visiting professor at MIT, originally from Australia.

“The Glass Castle,” by former gossip columnist and writer Jeannette Walls.

“Never Have Your Dog Stuffed,” by actor and director Alan Alda.

“Kitchen Confidential,” by bad-boy chef, travel host, and writer Anthony Bourdain.

“Dreams From My Father,” by, of course, our President, Barack Obama.

A bonus:  I don’t know any of the authors, but I’m pretty sure none of these books were ghostwritten!

May 12, 2009

Ruth Reichl’s memoirs

Filed under: Books and writing,memoirs — Helen Gunnarsson @ 10:09 am
Tags: , , , ,

Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl’s first memoir, “Tender At The Bone,” has been percolating up toward the top of my Want To Read list since it was published ten years ago.  Just a couple of weeks ago, she came out with a new installment, “Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way.”  Lauren Porcaro’s interview with Reichl on the New Yorker’s “The Book Bench” blog at http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2009/05/the-exchange-ruth-reichl.html  caught my eye.  Some excerpts that I found particularly noteworthy follow:

 “My mother started out by being a very good girl. She did everything that was expected of her, and it cost her dearly. Late in her life she was furious that she had not followed her own heart; she thought that it had ruined her life, and I think she was right. One of mom’s greatest acts of generosity was that she trained me to be defiant. Her great gift to me was encouraging me to be the person that I wanted to be, not the one that she and my father wished I was.”

 Asked about Twitter as a public diary:  “[P]rivacy is overrated. My mother’s scraps of paper were shouts into the void, and I think she would have been much happier if she could have sent them into the world instead of sticking them in a box. We all want, very much, to be seen and understood.”

“We need to accept the fact that most families now have two working parents…. We need to understand that women should not have to choose between their children and their careers, and that the current way that works—forcing women to become Superwomen—is another kind of trap.”

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