My mother begins a slow, thorny grieving. Time wrinkles around her periodically heaving body. In May, she decides we will make umrah, pilgrimage, in my grandmother’s memory. My immediate family doesn’t do field trips. I can’t remember the last time that we, all seven strong, went anywhere together—we are always too busy or too dispersed. By month’s end, we are flying to Saudi Arabia for the first time in fifteen years.
“One of the points I’m making in the book is that, whoever you’ve been and wherever you’ve been, it never leaves you,” he said, expanding upon this thought with the most Springsteen-esque metaphor possible: “I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?” Bruce Springsteen in Vanity Fair, on his new memoir.
le Carré on le Carré [The Guardian] The many lives of John le Carré, in his own words. An exclusive extract from his new memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel. Portraits by Nadav Kander. [Previously.] [more inside]
Writing for the BBC, Lucy Scholes lists "Ten 'Lost' Books You Should Read Now," starting with Teffi's Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea. An excerpt from Memories appeared in The New Yorker in 2014, and a recent article there provided additional background for that book as well as the collection of which the essay "My Dinner with Rasputin" is a part. [more inside]
“Do you remember us,” I asked. I was conscious of my voice. It failed, just a bit, on that “us,” but I was trying to keep the terror to myself.
“Technically, yes,” he said.Caitlin Myer writes for Electric Literature about her experience of her lover losing his memory. (Includes some fairly mild NSFW text, but Your Workplace May Vary.)
"Growing up in this home, I was ensconced in blackness — and as an adult, I now see and appreciate the ways that affirmed my identity. I finally saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when I was 24, and I was shocked that it was lauded as a 'staple of teen comedy.' I had always thought that the classic tale of Chicago youth skipping class was Cooley High. I didn’t learn whiteness as a default, or the limitations placed on those who exist outside of it, until I was much, much older." Jasmine Sanders (@ToniAliceZora) writes for Buzzfeed on growing up in one of Chicago's poorest black neighborhoods. [more inside]
"[E]ver since noticing a beautifully wrinkled and mysteriously sensual older French woman at a friend’s party, and, having inquired if she was the wife of the frizzy-haired, balding older man with the huge, horn-rimmed glasses next to her, and being informed that, “Nooo, she’s his mistress. They’ve been lovers for many years,” I’d decided that loverhood was what I aspired to." "The Magic Trick," by Carolita Johnson. (SLTheHairpin) [more inside]
There Once Was a Girl. A work of criticism and of memoir on the false narratives surrounding anorexia in life and literature.
(Some may find the descriptions in this essay disturbing or triggering.)
(Some may find the descriptions in this essay disturbing or triggering.)
An excerpt from Carrie Brownstein's memoir. "Sometimes the dull detritus of our pasts become glaring strands once you realize they form a pattern, a lighted path to the present." - from "Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl," scheduled to be published this month. [more inside]
It came up rain, a gray somber rain that put a frown on the careworn face of Pittsburgh. My window was streaked with erratic wet lines that made me think of a small child crying. Rain meant disappointment to thousands of fans—and a doubleheader to broadcast—and it meant that on that wet afternoon, I was face to face with the biggest enemy on the road… time…In September 1965, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully wrote guest column for the times.
Twenty Hours and Ten Minutes of Therapy Reflections at 50 on being young, scared, and coming out. Allison Green taped the therapy sessions she had when she was 23. Years later, she listened to them and wrote about what, and who, she heard.
"They’re such small things —a big toe, an ankle joint—but if they’re yours and they hurt, they become huge. Once it became painful to walk, I found myself wondering if the cancer was coming back, as it can, in my feet, which made me think about the hysterectomy I’d undergone just months before. I found myself thinking, if I cut off my feet, they wouldn’t hurt."
Bob Moran ("BOB"), the political cartoonist for the Saturday and Sunday Telegraph (e.g., 1, 2, more) had an unexpected journey into fatherhood. A beautiful and touching animated memoir for Father's day.
22 Books by Black Authors to Add to Your Beach Bag this Summer In response to recently published summer reading lists from The New York Times and NPR that featured mostly White authors, Blavity shares a list of 22 summer reads from Black authors. [more inside]
The Seduction Of Normalcy - Diana Arterian reviews poet Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts
The most radical thing about The Argonauts is not Maggie Nelson’s love affair with her genderfluid partner, Harry Dodge, or the fact that she mentions ass fucking and Wittgensteinian paradoxes on the first page. It’s true: Nelson is more than willing to give us searingly intelligent musings on philosophy, scenes of love, raunchy sex, her thoughts on queerness—and does so, often. But while these topics are hugely important, requiring continual probing from the world’s radical citizens, they are rarely as ghettoized as motherhood, procreation, children, and family are in the creative world and academia. Where most writers would hold back, Nelson lopes forward: “I was ashamed, but undaunted (my epithet?).”[more inside]
Miss Lonelyhearts, The Day of the Locust, A Cool Million, and The Dream Life of Balso Snell, all by Nathanael West [more inside]
Emily Adler remembers her father:
If your father is a philosopher, then you should expect to lose many arguments. You will never lose “because life isn’t fair,” or because your dad “says so.” You will always lose on strict logical grounds… If your father is a philosopher, your premises must support your conclusion. Then, maybe once or twice in a childhood filled with lost arguments, you will win. When you win, you win big.
In 1963 novelist Doris Lessing took in a fifteen year old former schoolmate of her son she had never met who couldn't live at home anymore. This teenage girl later grew up to be a writer herself, Jenny Diski (formerly of this parish), and has written a couple of essays in the London Review of Books about her relationship with Lessing. The first, What to Call Her?, was an obituary published shortly after Lessing's death. The second, Doris and Me, is a part of Diski's longer reckoning with her own life following her diagnosis with terminal cancer. [The last essay has been linked previously as part of a megapost.]
In the comic 'I'll Be Your Mirror' by Una Baines and Keith McDougall, Ms. Baines (founding member of the bands The Fall, Blue Orchids, and The Fates) tells the autobiographical tale of a first date with Mark E. Smith. [more inside]
A writer spends forty years looking for his bully. Why? Allen Kurzweil's book "Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully" will be released next week. A short piece on a bizarre aspect of the fraud of Prince Robert and the Badische Trust Consortium, for which Viana, the object of Kurzweil's search, was a shill: “I Dub Thee Sir Sammy."
On Not Remembering.
For me, dwelling on the past has become a habit of mind. Even more than that, it’s become the material of my work. My drive to make art out of the miserable, the glorious, the confusing material of my past, seems deeply embedded in my creative DNA. If I were a different kind of writer, my past might become merely the trace elements underlying my fiction; if I were a different kind of writer, I could have the multiple “I”s of the lyric poet without being held to any one of them as the absolute autobiographical truth. Instead, I seem condemned to the limited material of my own past.
They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. --Elmore Leonard, in 2000, on the extent of his input for Hollywood's adaptation of his novels For authorial input on film adaptation, try My Book The Movie, by Marshall Zeringue, also of The Campaign for the American Reader, the page 69 test (previously), and the page 99 test. [more inside]
She was 22 when her memory was obliterated. Twenty-six years later, Su Meck is still learning about the family she raised and the husband she has no recollection of marrying. Su has no earliest single memory and resents the question (it is the one she’s asked most frequently). She begins remembering around 1992, when she was roughly three months pregnant with Kassidy and a friend who was aware of her condition explained why her period had likely ceased, and went with her to a drugstore to buy a test. [more inside]
A Memoir Is Not a Status Update by Dani Shapiro [The New Yorker] "What would have become of me if I had come of age as a writer during these years of living out loud?"
This week sees the publication of the third volume of “My Struggle,” the thirty-six-hundred-page autobiographical novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian novelist. It’s hard to overstate the strangeness of the book’s success. The six volumes of “My Struggle” chronicle, in hypnotic detail, episodes from Knausgaard’s life. There is no plot to speak of, unless you consider real life a plot. [more inside]
If there's a literary equivalent of reality television right now--albeit one with more reflections on the cultural taboos surrounding dead bodies and the lingering consequences of the Holocaust--it's Karl Ove Knausgaard's sprawling autobiographical novel My Struggle (Min Kamp). [more inside]
"Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" an upcoming graphic memoir from Roz Chast is excerpted in the New Yorker online.
Twenty-five years ago, David Raether was a successful comedy writer -- a member of the writing staff of Roseanne. Five years ago, he was homeless. This is his story.
The book that helped me understand my son. Author David Mitchell's introduction to The Reason I Jump, a newly-translated memoir by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida on what it's like to have autism.
Songs from the Black Chair, published by Bellevue Literary Review in 2004, from a 2005 memoir by the same name, by Charles Barber
During this Pride season, 44 years after Stonewall and 17 years since HAART was introduced, writers reflect on what the past can teach us about the way forward and what the end of DOMA has to do with it. John Weir on AIDS, death, trauma, and liberation; Reina Gossett on resistance, assimilation, and the life of Marsha P. Johnson, one of the first to fight back at Stonewall. And Stonewaller Sylvia Rivera at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Rally, recently rediscovered by Reina Gossett, and Gossett's reflections on what Rivera, like Johnson and countless other transwomen of color, had to do to make space for herself.
"I have no patience for contemporary handlebar mustaches. They anger me. They look indulgent and ridiculous. If you have a handlebar mustache, that is pretty much all you are. You are a delivery system for a handlebar mustache." Marc Maron goes shopping for denim.
“I stole this book from the library ages ago…”Behind the Curtain (AKA OMG Marvin K. Redpost is a girl!) is one of the funnier excerpts from The Complicated Geography of Alice, a memoir in progress.
“Fourth grade” I say, watching them huddled together in the mirror.
“…one of those Marvin K. Redpost books. He kisses his elbow one day and when he wakes up the next morning he's a girl.”
“I meant to make you take it back but I bet we still have it.”
“My mom's cataloging fifteen years of gender-bending in one week.” She says, rolling her eyes.... “Seriously Mom, how did you NOT know?”
She will ask me this a hundred times. I will ask myself a hundred more and still never I didn't have a good answer then and I don't now. Perhaps we simply see what we expect to see and write off anything that doesn't fit into the little boxes we put people into. Or perhaps she'd learned to mask and over-correct, to hide so well that by the time those distinctions matter, I could not see her until she tore down that wall. I wish I'd known sooner.
How Things Fell Apart, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.[more inside]
RL Book 1 is the first part of a comics series from cartoonist Tom Hart, in which he talks about the death of his two year old daughter in November last year and how he and his wife, fellow cartoonist Leela Corman, are trying to deal with their loss. Somewhat sad, as you might expect.
"It’s the feeling I remember from that glorious fall, a feeling I have never felt since and am quite sure I’ll never feel again. I was full of sap and muscular and strong, and, of course, quite deluded. A young Icarus with enough literary training to be pretty sure of where all this was heading. It was hubris plain and simple, but one thing they don’t tell you about hubris is how good it feels. In fact in some ways, though I now know what it will lead to, I still think of that fall as the high tide of my twenties. In some ways I still think of it as the high tide of my life. Though a happier and better man now, I still miss that time and if there were a way, if granted a wish, I can’t pretend I wouldn’t run right back and crawl inside that lunatic’s skin." Ultimate Glory: A Frisbee Memoir by David Gessner. [more inside]
John D. Fitzgerald had written three fictionalized memoirs of his family's life in the late 19th-century Utah west before the night he happened to regale a group of friends with childhood stories of his money-crazed brother, Tom. At their urging, he crafted a funny and clever series of children's books chronicling the adventures of The Great Brain. Like countless other readers, the blogger and researcher behind Finding Fitzgerald (and its companion blog and Facebook page) has been fascinated with discovering the real settings and stories behind the books. And the truly committed can even watch Jimmy Osmond in the 1978 film adaptation.
They were alive and they spoke to me! That is the simplest and most eloquent way in which I can refer to those authors who have remained with me over the years. - Henry Miller, The Books In My Life [more inside]
Those Americans who are familiar with the name Claude Lanzmann most likely know him as the director of “Shoah,” his monumental 1985 documentary about the extermination of the European Jews in the Nazi gas chambers. As it turns out, though, the story of Lanzmann’s eventful life would have been well worth telling even if he had never come to direct “Shoah.” In addition to film director, Lanzmann’s roles have included those of journalist, editor, public intellectual, member of the French Resistance, long-term lover of Simone de Beauvoir and close friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, world traveler, political activist, ghostwriter for Jacques Cousteau — I could go on, but it’s a good deal more entertaining to hear Lanzmann himself go on, and thanks to the publication in English of his memoir, “The Patagonian Hare,” we now have the opportunity to do so. (previously)
The pills are $2,000 every month. The doctor visits never end. And there's always the possibility the virus could spread. Otherwise, it's not so different.
Inspired by SMITH magazine's six-word Memoir project and books (previously), Minnesota Public Radio asks, "In six words, how would you describe 2011?"
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.
Even people who would normally never care about something Judy Garland-related marvel at the incredible pathos and dark insanity of these tapes, which come off like Garland performing in a one-woman show written by Samuel Beckett.
Mohammed el Gorani, the youngest prisoner held at Guantánamo, has written a memoir of his time there, the lead up to his imprisonment, and subsequent release years later.
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