In June when we were in Cabo I only brought one book. I figured I’d burn through it in a day or two as sitting by the pool isn’t what I’m best at. I’m not sure if I heard it on random podcast or absorbed it from something I had read but the week before he trip I bought The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr. I read the first page and was simultaneously blown away and decided to never write a word again as it would always be garbage in comparison. Clearly that didn’t last the morning, but the book continued to improve and escalate in great ways. It took me two months to work through its greatness.
While I read, I constantly was left with a feeling of “this is exactly what I am writing on some days,” followed immediately by “your story is lame and boring and not worth capturing.” This came less from a “woe is me” than being challenged by things I had decided about my writing.
The first of these is that “I just write and push ‘publish’ and that’s how it is.” AKA- I am being s lazy fuck.
Revisions and checking things multiple times takes time and is the difference between 373 word status updates and something with meaning. Oft in my life I applaud my spontaneity and way of doing things as “originality” and “creativity”. This is self serving and inaccurate. Am I going to revise this post? Probably not, but for fucks sake, can I at least re-read it once for typos?
I won’t review The Art of Memoir but I will tell you this. The writing is intense. Not in its subject matter, but in its complexity. Sometimes it’s prose made me have to stop and re read paragraphs because I don’t get it the first time. She’s a poet first and it shows. In a good way, but in a way that challenged me.
I read this book with a pencil and a piece of paper because every chapter made me think. Made me consider and gave me ideas. When was the last time a book did that to you? I can’t remember.
It reinforced that the best memoir is built on a foundation of raw honesty and that the reader can tell when you’re both being self serving as well as not telling the truth.
Good writing is a story, better writing you identify with and things that transcend take you on a personal journey and make you think.
So if you write. Journal. Are obsessed with your story(s). Think your story will be the next A Million Little Pieces (be careful, this is a trap). This is a great read.
Just plan on it taking s little while.