To write a good memoir you must become the editor of your own life, imposing on an untidy sprawl of half-remembered events a narrative shape and an organizing idea. Memoir is the art of inventing the truth.
Memoir isn't the summary of a life; it's a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It's not; it's a deliberate construction.
A lot of presidential memoirs, they say, are dull and self-serving. I hope mine is interesting and self-serving.
Memoir is a weird genre for a reporter. You end up investigating your own memories, reporting out your past.
A learned County Court judge in a book of memoirs recently said that the overwhelming amount of his time on the bench was taken up with people who are persuaded by persons whom they do not know to enter into contracts that they do not understand to purchase goods that they do not want with money that they have not got.
— Wilfred Greene, 1st Baron Greene
I disagree that Blood Will Out is a memoir in the conventional sense. It's the story of a relationship, primarily, not an individual. The "me" in the book is a specialized version of me, the person who Clark manipulated and fooled. I could cover the same years of my life from an entirely different perspective in another book, by concentrating on my experience as a husband, say. But I was selective. I focused on my duping.
I don't write fiction but I do write narrative; I write memoirs that I treat like stories, so whenever I'm using somebody I actually know as a model, I am submitting them to the agenda of a storyteller, and I feel free to do what I want.
A serious life, by definition, is a life one reflects on, a life one tries to make sense of and bear witness to. Truth in a memoir is achieved not through a recital of actual events; it is achieved when the reader comes to believe that the writer is working hard to engage with the experience at hand. What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.
The desire for narration keeps on reasserting itself, so that since modernism and fiction brought narration to an end, it is sought in memoirs.
I don't know if memoirs can produce literary work of the first order. But I do know that novels are doing it only rarely.
A lot of my songs are very personal, always, but this one felt like a memoir. I almost called it Hallucinated Memoir. "Granny" is a hallucinated memoir. It's straight-up symbolism for my life, in many ways.
A Diogenesian search for an honest person would rarely lead to the author of a memoir.
Many things embarrass me, but reading isnt one of them. Im not ashamed of my slightly weird collection of prison memoirs. Nor the flaky meditation books. After all, I can pretend I never read those.
A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass has footnotes explaining what words like 'arraigned,' 'curried' and 'exculpate' meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today's expensively under-educated generation.
I believe the personal is the collective. One of the ironies of writing memoir is in using the "I" it becomes an alchemical "we." This is the sorcery of literature.
The discipline of writing a memoir comes in the editing. This is where I cut, slash, and burn - where my creative mind is transformed into a ruthless one. No word escapes my scrutiny. It is here where I see what boundaries need to be set.
When we spoke, Gene Wilder had just written a memoir called "Kiss Me Like A Stranger." The title was suggested by his late wife Gilda Radner three weeks before she died in 1989.
When it comes to memoir, we want to catch the author in a lie. When we read fiction, we want to catch the author telling the truth.
I never felt inspired to write this book [ I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse?], like I did with the cat or dog book; I felt compelled. At the time (May 1999), I was planning to write and illustrate an altogether different memoir, a book about my decision whether or not to have a baby.
I believe that the memoir is the novel of the 21st century; it's an amazing form that we haven't even begun to tap"we're just getting started figuring out what the rules are.
To be honest, I don't know. I started one [book] back in 1982 or '83 when I first retired. But I was only 25 or 26 and not ready to write my memoirs.
I think many people need, even require, a narrative version of their life. I seem to be one of them. Writing memoir is, in some ways, a work of wholeness.
I love memoirs, particularly obscure ones because the writer is usually a regular guy just telling what happened to him and to his friends. What these tales lack in artfulness they make up for in passion and authenticity. For a writer of fiction, they are solid gold. I have stolen so much from memoirs it's ridiculous.
I've been approached many times to write all sorts of books about my past and my personal life. I get interest from people who want to do reality shows, and somebody just offered me a huge amount of money to write my spiritual memoirs. I'm just not interested.
The stupidest thing that a writer can do is write a memoir I think, unless it's right before you die - maybe.
I'm a memoir writer. I try to understand the world by taking experiences I have and making them into a story, whether it's a narrative memoir, blogging for The Huffington Post, writing poems, or talking on the screen about what has happened to me and how that relates to the world at large.
Let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity.
I had many reasons for writing memoir but among them was the hope that every Latino child and adult would find something familiar in it.
I don't really think of my essays as being about myself. I know it sounds insane, but I just don't think of them as a memoir. They're essays; they're not an autobiography.
I've always liked to read about extremely wealthy people, especially when they are crazy (like Howard Hughes or Caligula.) While writing this book I did a lot of fun research on robber barons like Rockefeller and Morgan. But the most helpful stuff came from studying royal families and mad emperors. The best book I read was probably A King's Own Story, which is the memoir of Edward VIII. Also, anything about Ivan the Terrible or Ted Turner.
Life Among the Savages is a disrespectful memoir of my children.
In various memoir pieces, I have traced the trajectory of yearning through decisions made, good and bad, that had somehow kept the ambition on track.
The problem of the female body is not something that I've studied, but my memoir does treat that theme.
That desire to reach further is also where I ended my memoir, in 1994 in California, perhaps ironically, looking out to the Pacific and back to Asia, toward the not-yet-written.
In my memoir, I wanted to introduce American women to Iranian women and our lives. I'm not from the highest echelons of society, nor the lowest. I'm a woman who is a lawyer, who is a professor at a university, who won the Nobel Peace Prize. At the same time, I cook. And even when I'm about to go to prison, one of the first things I do is to make enough food and put it in the fridge for my family.
I love to read long books. I enjoy experiencing that extension. But it's not something I feel comfortable with and not something I think I can gain comfort with by practice. It was a real struggle for me while writing memoir to get past three pages or so. In poems, I can write long poems. But length in prose: no.
Someone asked me if I was afraid to write my memoirs. I told him: 'We have to stop drawing up accounts of fear! We live in a society in which people are allowed to tell their story, and that is what I do.'
The difference between memoir and autobiography, as far as I see it, is that a memoir is there primarily to tell one particular story, whereas an autobiography tries to be a full account of a life.
If you're going to write a memoir, try to be as honest and open as you can.
I haven't written my memoirs or let the television movie be made about my life.