Tag Archives: Memoir

Amber Nicole Brooks on Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World

The Hooch: News & Events

Our dynamic nonfiction editor Amber Nicole Brooks prepares readers for our forthcoming Skin issue with a tribute to one woman who started an important conversation on the topic, Eve Ensler, via Ensler’s new book, In the Body of the World:

Author of The Vagina Monologues and one of Newsweek‘s 150 Women Who Changed the World, Eve Ensler has given the world an arresting memoir of wondrous breadth, In the Body of the World (Metropolitan Books, 2013). Ensler’s voice is vulnerable, fierce, and acutely aware. A list titled “Scans” divides the book into fifty-three sections, including “Somnolence,” “Falling or Congo Stigmata,” “The Stoma,” “Crowd Chemo,” “Riding the Lion,” “Shit,” and “Joy.” The scans, metaphors, and variants of pain at first seem to create a fractured vision. However, as the narrative accumulates layers, and in a way heals itself, its preoccupations, Ensler indeed makes the vision whole.

Through her experiences…

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Flavorwire Roundtable: Is Lena Dunham a Voice of a Generation in ‘Not That Kind of Girl’?

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We are living through a golden age of the female-comedian memoir. Stoked by Chelsea Handler’s consistently bestselling memoirs about drinking and sex, the genre became a full-on trend with Tina Fey’s Bossypants in 2011. In short order, we had books by Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, Judy Greer, Rachel Dratch, anyone who’s ever been on the Chelsea Lately comedy panel, and an upcoming collection by the forever-likable Amy Poehler. Some have succeeded and some have flopped, but it’s a wave that apparently hasn’t even crested yet, with a new million-dollar book deal announced seemingly every day.

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Book #24. Night

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This is the second book on the Holocaust I taught to the advanced fiction class this semester. I was somewhat reluctant to begin Elie Wiesel’s gruesome Night right after finishing the Boy in the Striped Pajamas that shares the same background. But the memoir turned out to be a right choice after all. I guess the book more touched my heart than theirs, as far as God is concerned.

Before I let myself being genuinely impressed by the events depicted in this book, I sensed a fundamental doubt on the ‘authenticity’ of Wiesel’s narrative and also of the entire genre itself. You relive your own memory in order to produce and publish a memoir, and on what basis could I, a reader, assess the accuracy of that memories which must be as old as several decades? There are many episodes that I felt too dramatic to be true (the part about violin-playing Juliek was a good one, and…

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BREAKING: A (Not At All) Exclusive Q&A with Anchorman & Literary Legend Ron Burgundy

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Let Me Off at the Top: My Classy Life & Other Musings, the riveting new memoir from Anchorman and Literary Legend Ron Burgundy, hits our shelves in a storm of mahogany-scented wonder this Tuesday, November 19. In the most highly anticipated book of the year, Burgundy reveals his most private thoughts, his triumphs and his disappointments. He takes us from his boyhood in a desolate Iowa coal-mining town to his years at Our Lady Queen of Chewbacca High School. Let us tell you – it’s one wild ride.

Pre-order your tickets to the gun show right here and we’ll have one of these puppies waiting for you when they come out of the box Tuesday morning. In the mean time, we’ve landed a not at all exclusive interview with the man behind the book jacket – Ron Burgundy.

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What aspects of your childhood or upbringing have endured with you…

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Is Memoir a Dirty Word?

Is Memoir a dirty word? Do critics shun the genre?  There seemed to be a period there where nearly everyone had published a memoir; simply having a pulse was enough motivation to put your life on the page. Sort of how nearly everyone I met in my twenties claimed to be a photographer.

Who can forget the James Frey scandal? “Memoir” is, indeed, a contract with the audience: I will only lie about small details.

Many folks have knocked the genre. Hanna Miet sums up the debate in her article “Lies, Truth, and Memory: The Memoir Debacle”:

One of the most recent inflammatory articles was The Problem with Memoirs by Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, which called for “a moment of silence” for the “lost art of shutting up.”

Genzlinger laments the “bloated” genre, which used to be dominated only by writers who had achieved something (that Genzlinger deems) extraordinary.  Today, he says, “memoirs have been disgorged by virtually every­one who has ever had cancer, been anorexic, battled depression, lost weight. By anyone who has ever taught an underprivileged child, adopted an under­privileged child or been an under­privileged child. By anyone who was raised in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, not to mention the ’50s, ’40s or ’30s. Owned a dog. Run a marathon. Found religion. Held a job.”

Then Genzlinger, who has never written a memoir, goes on to list four prerequisites for writing about your life, while reviewing four recent memoirs in the process. (And hating on all but one of them, obviously.)

In Get Me Up Close To the Lives of Others at HTML Giant, Roxane Gay says there is an inherent problem with blanket dismissals like Genzlinger’s — a problem with “Problem With” articles. “The ‘problem’ with dismissing memoir, and particular memoirs written by young writers or chronicling the ordinary life is that it assumes we can only become worthy reporters of our lives, and chroniclers of our memories through aging or experiencing something profound,” Gay said. “There is undoubtedly a certain wisdom that comes with age or experiencing something profound but there is also wisdom to be found in ordinary experiences.  Neither writing nor remembrance are easy tasks and as such I have a real respect for writers who take the journey inward regardless of what inspired that journey.”

Slight and poorly written books exist in all genres. Discounting the whole genre seems rash.

I realized I judge the genre as well, even though I didn’t think I did. I figured this out when I noted I only read memoirs in the summer. Once summer comes and I have two weeks off of work, I find myself browsing the New/Popular section at my local library and picking up memoirs. It’s easier to sit at the kitchen table and read while also conversing with a child about Phineas and Ferb plotlines if the reading is swift and entertaining, rather than challenging. And “challenging” is not the correct word here, but I hope you know what I mean.

Here are three memoirs I’ve read so far this summer:

The Source of All Things: A Memoir by Tracy Ross

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel, which is a graphic memoir

In The Millions, Jennifer Miller writes “In Defense of Autobiography.”

What do you think? Is memoir a dirty word? Have you read any great books from the genre lately?

Amber