Although my choice of reading material is normally mysteries, I’ve been reading books on writing memoir and memoirs lately, trying to get a feel for what is acceptable or perhaps desirable.
Just finished Who Do You Think You Are? by Alyse Myers. A difficult story of a young girl growing up in a dysfunctional, somewhat abusive home. The greatest strength of the book is the author’s ability to show the complicated nature of perception, and how despite lacking adequate information to make accurate judgments, children are a product of their environment as well as their genes.
Before that, I read the Pulitzer Prize winning Growing Up by Russell Baker. I’d read Russell’s chapter in Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, edited by William Zinsser, and been impressed with it. I found the story interesting, and the way he told it very enlightening, though the writing felt very plain and easy-to-follow. I guess I expected more literary styling in a Pulitzer winner. Not that I wanted literary stuff – that’s not my cup of tea. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book was very readable.
My choice of these two memoirs was also impacted by the complex relationships each author had with his or her families, in particular the mother. Since my own memoir will definitely have some of that, it’s good to see how other people handled it.
Just before these two books, I read Inventing the truth, edited by Zinsser, and very helpful; and The Joy of Writing by Pierre Berton, which was also quite helpful and ought to be mandatory reading for all Canadian writers, regardless of genre.
I have about five other books to read before I think I’ll be ready to start working on my memoir. Next up is Lawrence Block’s new memoir, Step By Step: A Pedestrian Memoir, which promises an interesting metaphor.