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"I sat in the middle of a catastrophe."

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.]
posted by Kattullus on Feb 22, 2015 - 19 comments

A Date with Mark E. Smith

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]
posted by item on Jan 21, 2015 - 14 comments

Whipping Boy

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."
posted by cwest on Jan 14, 2015 - 30 comments

“I don’t remember exactly,” I say. “It was so long ago.”

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.

posted by homunculus on Jan 5, 2015 - 8 comments

My Book, The Movie

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]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 29, 2014 - 6 comments

Who Is Su

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]
posted by lesli212 on Sep 26, 2014 - 101 comments

A heart rather than a phone call.

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?"
posted by Fizz on Aug 18, 2014 - 20 comments

Doesn’t your life feel like his?

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]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jun 3, 2014 - 31 comments

Doña Quixote

My Dementia: Telling who I am before I forget, by author Gerda Saunders
posted by zarq on Mar 21, 2014 - 16 comments

The Real Knausgaards of Norway

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]
posted by Cash4Lead on Mar 19, 2014 - 19 comments

My parents and I never discussed death . . .

"Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" an upcoming graphic memoir from Roz Chast is excerpted in the New Yorker online.
posted by Obscure Reference on Mar 3, 2014 - 16 comments

What It's Like to Fail.

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.
posted by workingdankoch on Nov 18, 2013 - 92 comments

"A mind as curious, subtle, and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s."

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.
posted by Rory Marinich on Sep 8, 2013 - 13 comments

The Travelers and the Wanderers

Songs from the Black Chair, published by Bellevue Literary Review in 2004, from a 2005 memoir by the same name, by Charles Barber
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Aug 19, 2013 - 4 comments

Next Year at Stonewall

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.
posted by liketitanic on Jun 30, 2013 - 14 comments

the modern man

"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.
posted by four panels on May 5, 2013 - 206 comments

The Complicated Geography of Alice

“I stole this book from the library ages ago…”
“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.
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.
posted by carsonb on Nov 25, 2012 - 16 comments

"Crossroads possess a certain dangerous potency."

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]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 25, 2012 - 10 comments

Rosalie Lightning

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.
posted by MartinWisse on Oct 13, 2012 - 19 comments

Ultimate Glory: A Frisbee Memoir

"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]
posted by davidjmcgee on Oct 12, 2012 - 4 comments

Always wondered if Tom went on to work in banking.

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.
posted by Miko on Oct 10, 2012 - 40 comments

Henry Miller's "The Books In My Life"

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]
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 23, 2012 - 7 comments

Claude Lanzmann

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)
posted by Trurl on Apr 16, 2012 - 6 comments

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.

Odd Blood: Serodiscordancy, or Life with an HIV-Positive Partner
posted by liketitanic on Mar 29, 2012 - 7 comments

Caroline Knapp's "Drinking: A Love Story"

Drinking: A Love Story, Chapter Six: Sex - by Caroline Knapp
posted by Trurl on Jan 26, 2012 - 36 comments

This Year's Just Six Words Long

Inspired by SMITH magazine's six-word Memoir project and books (previously), Minnesota Public Radio asks, "In six words, how would you describe 2011?"
posted by ZeusHumms on Dec 29, 2011 - 94 comments

Thomas Merton

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.
posted by Trurl on Dec 29, 2011 - 8 comments

Gumm's Last Tape

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.
posted by Trurl on Dec 28, 2011 - 27 comments

Mohammed el Gorani

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.
posted by gman on Dec 14, 2011 - 65 comments

Blaise Cendrars

Reading Blaise Cendrars is like stepping into another universe. His fiction is unlike anything else I've ever read. His poetry influenced the mighty Guillaume Apollinaire and helped shape the face of modernism. But it is his mockery of biographical detail and the very notion of literature that fascinates me the most. If, like me, you're not a fan of autobiography, then Blaise Cendrars is the memoirist for you.
posted by Trurl on Nov 30, 2011 - 10 comments

Before Netfilx, 16mil Rentals

Budget Films is a small, privately owned film archive in Los Angeles. Layne Murphy writes about working with her father, in the all-but-lost world of 16mil prints. One regular customer was obsessed with Paulette Goddard, and snipped out all of her scenes from the films he rented.
posted by Ideefixe on Jun 18, 2011 - 13 comments

Management Lessons from The Prince of Pranks

"In the sweet leisure of his retirement — if you don’t count the chemotherapy — former Poynter president Jim Naughton" (and the only member of the White House Press Corps to ever question a US President while wearing a chicken head,) has written a memoir: "46 Frogs: Tales of a Serial Prankster." Poynter Online has posted four excerpts as part of their ongoing Best Practices: Leadership & Management series:
* Turning the boss’s office into a fun & inviting place
* How bringing 46 live frogs into the newsroom fosters a philosophy of fun
* How newsroom humor can create a sense of togetherness
* Interviewing the U.S. president while wearing a chicken head

posted by zarq on Apr 15, 2011 - 4 comments

California Schemin'

"As Woody Guthrie put it seventy years ago: California is a Garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see. / But be­lieve it or not, you won't find it so hot / If you ain't got the do re mi. My father, who risked all our do re mi in pursuit of his own California dream, is a case in point."
posted by liketitanic on Mar 12, 2011 - 28 comments

Tiger, Tiger

Margaux Fragoso met Peter Curran when she was 7 and he was 51. For the next 15 years until his suicide, they had a hidden, violent and sexually abusive relationship. Her new memoir, Tiger, Tiger is being likened to a "reverse, true-life Lolita," told from the perspective of Delores Haze's character, which in some ways humanizes the pedophile who preyed upon her without excusing him. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 7, 2011 - 56 comments

Its only words, and words are all I have

Binyavanga Wainaina remembers one night in the Kenyan countryside as a young man, an excerpt from his soon to be published memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. [more inside]
posted by infini on Feb 22, 2011 - 4 comments

Poems From My Ex

Fifteen years after we broke up, my ex-boyfriend published a book of poetry. ... For months, the slim book sat on my shelf like an awkward houseguest. Then, one quiet night, something nudged me out of my inertia, or dread, and I settled into bed with his book. And there I was.
posted by Joe Beese on Feb 10, 2011 - 41 comments

Deconstructing Dubya

Bush's memoir, Decision Points, gets a Foucauldian analysis in the London Review of Books. Awesome quote: "On his first trip to Paris in 2002, Junior, now president of the United States, stood beside Jacques Chirac at a press conference and said: ‘He’s always saying that the food here is fantastic and I’m going to give him a chance to show me tonight.’"(Book mentioned previously.)
posted by GrammarMoses on Dec 25, 2010 - 91 comments

A G.I.'s WWII Memoir

Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt," told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Nov 23, 2010 - 7 comments

"Poetry is still beautiful, taking me with it."

A memoir of living with a brain tumour: "For art critic Tom Lubbock, language has been his life and his livelihood. But in 2008, he developed a lethal brain tumour and was told he would slowly lose control over speech and writing. This is his account of what happens when words slip away." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Nov 13, 2010 - 11 comments

Confessions of a Used Bookseller

Have you seen people at library book sales going over all the books with a barcode scanner? One of these folks reveals his methods and discusses his feelings about what he does.
posted by reenum on Oct 7, 2010 - 165 comments

The Twin Who Didn't Make It

The Twin Who Didn't Make It is an excerpt from Alexa Stevenson's memoir Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe.
posted by lauratheexplorer on Aug 28, 2010 - 12 comments

Is therapy always the answer?

"Looked at a certain way, the entire enterprise seems geared toward the needs of the therapist rather than the patient to a degree that can feel, after a certain amount of time, undemocratic, if not outright exploitative. With no endpoint in sight, it’s possible to stay in therapy forever without much real progress; at the same time, the weight of responsibility is borne almost entirely by the patient, whose “resistance” or lack of effort-making is often blamed for any stagnancy in treatment before the possibility of a therapist’s shortcomings is even acknowledged." [more inside]
posted by liketitanic on Aug 5, 2010 - 49 comments

A busy year for Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh is well-known to many as a founder of legendary 80s indy/alt band Throwing Muses, as well as for her own successful solo albums and alt-punk 3-piece band 50 Foot Wave, is having a good 2010. A new solo album, Crooked, is due out later this year -- a follow-up to the collection Speedbath, which was released on the web under a Creative Commons license, and demos for a forthcoming new Throwing Muses collection have been appearing on the band's CASH page (previously); Crooked has also appeared in the UK in book format through HarperCollins' Friday Project imprint. A nice additional tidbit for fans is the just-released live collection, Cats and Mice. As if all that wasn't enough, stories that Kristin came up with for her sons while they accompanied her on tour over the years inspired a children's book, Toby Snax, published in 2007, and Hersh will be publishing a memoir, Rat Girl (Paradoxical Undressing, in the UK edition) detailing her early days with Throwing Muses -- a time in which she struggled with mental illness and figured out what it meant to front a touring rock band while pregnant (excerpts of Rat Girl arrived in periodic email installments to Hersh's subscription supporters, whose support has enabled much of Hersh's current productivity). Hersh has been taking advantage of various social media as well: you can follow her doing in the Throwingmusic fan forums, Facebook, or via her often-curious Twitter feed.
posted by aught on Jul 14, 2010 - 30 comments

Portrait of the Addict As a Young Man

An excerpt from Portrait of the Addict As a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg.
posted by puny human on Jun 18, 2010 - 49 comments

Hero President and Your Humble Servant

Among nominations for the least-accurate political memoir ever written is Douglas Brinkley's suggestion: James Buchanan's wildly disingenuous "Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion" (1866). Buchanan had the gall to shirk all responsibility for the Civil War. He blamed everybody but himself for the dissolution of the Union. A pathetic memoir aimed at trying to exonerate himself from serial wrongheadedness and flatfooted policy initiatives. What Buchanan wrote was revisionist blather.
posted by jjray on Mar 25, 2010 - 12 comments

Casanova's "Histoire de ma vie"

Remembering the pleasures I enjoyed, I renew them, and I laugh at the pains which I have endured and which I no longer feel. Of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt ‘s Histoire de ma vie, Kenneth Rexroth wrote: Purity, simplicity, definition, impact — these qualities of Homer are those of Casanova too. … He has equals but no superiors in the art of direct factual narrative. ... Time and its ruining passage color all the book. His sense of his own imminent death lurks in the dark background of every brilliantly lit lusty and bawdy tableau. After an unusually colorful history, the manuscript has been donated to France's National Library. [more inside]
posted by Joe Beese on Feb 18, 2010 - 6 comments

A Yemeni memoir

From bikinis to burkas: a Yemeni memoir. Toronto theater critic Kamal Al-Solaylee (more articles) describes how his family went from cosmopolitan secularism to defeatism and traditionalism. From the Toronto Globe and Mail.
posted by russilwvong on Jan 9, 2010 - 16 comments

If you’re going to poke around the bushes, you’d best be prepared to scare out some snakes.

Married (Happily) with Issues
posted by anotherpanacea on Dec 5, 2009 - 182 comments

The Education of Little Fraud

Many kids read The Education of Little Tree in school, but the author of the book, Forrest Carter, was actually Asa Carter, a staunch racist and charlatan.
posted by reenum on Nov 10, 2009 - 101 comments

What she thought she knew: a love story

What she thought she knew.
posted by alms on Jul 12, 2009 - 57 comments

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