Memoir: Do You Tell?

I’m participating in a “Blogathon,” posting every day for the month of June, if you’re wondering why all the posts. It’s Day 18.

I have been blogging about my two writing focuses: content marketing, and memoir. Today, I am thinking about memoir after stumbling upon a memoir page at Slate.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Author, Ghoswriter, Hawaii, Content MarketingIt’s from a past “Memoir Week,” and has links to articles where writers answer the question, How do you choose to alert people who appear in your books that you are writing about them—or do you not alert them at all? If you do, do you discuss the book with family members and friends while the work is in progress? How do you deal with complaints from people who may remember events differently than you?

Interesting.

From “All About Me?” at Slate:

What has been most striking to us at Slate is how many memoirs these days are anything but coming-of-age stories; instead, they tackle issues and subjects larger than the self. Elizabeth Rubin and Mike Vazquez dissect the story of Ishmael Beah, who became a child soldier in Sierra Leone at the age of 12. Ann Hulbert looks at two memoirs about autism and asks why autism has become a metaphor for our times. Stephen Metcalf studies the scarlet history of the biography. Jess Row returns to Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior to see how this seminal memoir holds up. And Meghan O’Rourke and Dan Chiasson discuss the role of autobiography in poetry 40 years after Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath helped start a vogue in confessional poetry.

We’ll also offer a series of short essays by memoirists on the experience of publishing a book about their lives. Sean Wilsey reflects on his stepmother’s threat of a lawsuit following the publication of his memoir, Oh the Glory of It All. Mary Karr recollects telling her friends she was writing about them in The Liar’s Club and Cherry. Alison Bechdel meditates on how memoirs hurt your family. Plus: Frank McCourt on being the most hated man in Ireland; Rich Cohen on his family’s feud over the Sweet’N Low fortune; and much, much more. Enjoy.

Click here to get to that page to browse authors’ varied thoughts about writing memoir.

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Mary Karr: ‘For Our People to Do Anything to Generate Income That Won’t Land You in Prison, It’s a Win’

What an interesting read, this Paris Review interview with Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club: A Memoir. It’s not a new article; I just stumbled upon it. An excerpt from the interview:

INTERVIEWER

Did you tell your family you were going to write about them?Leslie Lang, Author, Writer, Hawaii

KARR

I’d warned my mother and sister in advance that I wanted to cover the period of Mother’s psychotic break and her divorce from Daddy. She’d inherited a sum of cash that was vast by our standards, and she bought a bar and married the bartender—her sixth husband. She was an outlaw, and really didn’t give a rat’s ass what the neighbors thought. She drank hard and packed a pistol. When I tested the waters about doing a memoir of the period, she told me, Hell, go for it. She and my sister probably figured nobody’d read the book but me and whomever I was sleeping with. Also, my mother was a portrait painter. She understood point of view. My sister, who’s a very sophisticated reader, signed off too. For our people to do anything to generate income that won’t land you in prison, it’s a win.

The memoir came out in 1995 and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year. It sold half a million copies, and was highly acclaimed, ending up as an annual “best book” at the New York Times, The New Yorker, People, and Time. Entertainment Weekly rated it number four in the top one hundred books of the last twenty-five years.

Slate ran an article by Karr called, The Liars’ Club, How I told my friends I was writing about my childhood – and what they said in return.

Another interview excerpt:

KARR

People who didn’t live pre-Internet can’t grasp how devoid of ideas life in my hometown was. The only bookstores sold Bibles the size of coffee tables and dashboard Virgin Marys that glowed in the dark. I stopped in the middle of the SAT to memorize a poem, because I thought, This is a great work of art and I’ll never see it again.

INTERVIEWER

Was this a practice test?

KARR

No, it was the SAT itself—maybe the literature test. I just put my pencil down and started memorizing. Later I came across the poem in a library. It was “Storm Windows,” by Howard Nemerov. I wrote him a fan letter, to which he replied on Washington University stationery—it was like the Holy Grail, a note from a living poet. When I was twenty I met him at a reading he gave in the Twin Cities, and he said, You’re that little girl from Texas!

Great read. Like the memoir itself.

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