Memoirs: Why Bother?

A provocative title for this post I realize, but I often wonder why all the memoirs that published get written in the first place. I have to assume that the author thinks they have something to share with the world, some sort of unique perspective. More often than not, they follow this pattern:

    • I grew up in:
      • a really poor family in a rough neighborhood.
      • a cult.
      • a hippie commune with free spirits.
      • evangelical family that punished me a lot.
    • I overcame my background and became:
      • a writer.
      • a lawyer.
      • better than them.
      • a drug addict.
    • Today I’ve:
      • got a normal family.
      • adopted some kids from other countries.
      • got dreadlocks and tattoos and live an alternative lifestyle.
      • got a writing degree and published some stuff.

Often the writing is okay, not great, just okay. You can see where I’m going with this. It’s all part of the “too many books are being published” argument. You might think I’m here to whine about a particular book. No sir! I’m actually writing this post because I read a book on the plane to Atlanta last Thursday that completely goes against everything I said here. Unfortunately for you, Dear Reader, it’s not due until Spring 2011, but I’m saying it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. The book: Andre Dubus III’s Townie: A Memoir.
After Dubus’s parents divorced in the 1970s, his mother moved he and his siblings to a depressed Massachusetts mill town outside of Boston, rife with violence and crime. Facing daily beatings, Dubus eventually begins weight lifting and decades of fighting back. His memoir examines the correlation between violence and creativity as well as his relationship with his remote father. It’s simply stunning. His honesty and willingness to look with open eyes at himself and his family won me over. A lot of its brilliance lies in his remembering and sharing of the details and I honestly feel like I know him now.
Wonderful, tremendous,  these are words I normally use to describe books I like. They don’t seem accurate in this case nor do any other words I can think of while writing this. It’s simply a book you must read.

3 thoughts on “Memoirs: Why Bother?

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