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The Art (And Glut) Of Memoir

Flickr Creative Commons, craigfinlay


My e-mail inbox is full of pitches for memoirs.

Here's one by Deirdre Marie Capone called, "Uncle Al." The press release refers to Al Capone as her uncle and promises us inside-the-family insights about the Valentnie's Day Massacre as well as "authentic Capone family recipes."  It concludes: Deirdre relates what life was like growing up the grand niece of Public Enemy #1, Al Capone.

... So already we have stumbled into an area of imprecision. Is he her uncle or her grand uncle? And here we have in a nutshell the problem posed by the modern explosion of memoir-writing. There are too many of them. They are often written by people with dubious claims on history. And their veracity is often in doubt.

On the other hand, and I speak now as a memoir-writer more than as a receiver of press releases, there are, in memoirs, beautiful, funny, sad, haunting, instructive stories many of which would be otherwise lost.

Today - the art of memoir writing. What are the genre's ethics? How is memoir different than autobiography?

Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

Upcoming Events:

  • Mr. Couser will be giving a book talk, "Why Memoir Matters," at the Stonington Public Library in Stonington, CT, at 5 p.m. on January 29.
  • Bloom and Levine will offer A Class in Memoir starting Wednesday, March 7, through Wednesday, April 25. There is a fee of $600 for the eight-week course. The registration deadline is Wednesday, February 15. The class runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Mark Twain Museum Center, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford. One session will be held in Mark Twain's library in the historic house. To participate, a serious interest in the memoir form is the only requirement; beginners are welcome. To register, please send a brief letter or email of interest to Steve Courtney at steve.courtney@marktwainhouse.org or call 860-247-0998, Ext. 243. Registrants will be limited to fourteen. The tuition fee must be paid in full by the registration deadline, February 15.
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