March 13, 2012

In Which I Throw the Book Across the Room

Last night, I tried, yet again, to read a memoir I had picked up.  I won’t mention its name.  It had such potential.  Very dramatic events.  Heart-wrenching life changes.  But the writer refused to settle, kept jumping around in time, and kept telling me everything instead of showing.  It just made me frustrated.  She didn’t trust herself or the events to be dramatic enough in their very existence, in the simple details of what happened.  If she would have, I’d’ve been there with her every step of the way.  Rather than beginning by stating in bare facts what had happened, she gave us two full chapters of now and of interpretation, and she kept telling us what the effects were.  She should have just said what happened, laid out in scenes and details, and then gone back and told the story from the beginning linearly, with scenes connected with summary. It was very frustrating.

I found myself wishing deeply for my friend Ken Olsen’s memoir.  I’ve only read a bit of it, but it’s deeply moving, and it’s set in scene and summary with lots of rich detail.  It reads a bit like Steinbeck.  It hasn’t been published yet, and Ken does not yet have an agent (hint, hint, all you agents out there).


Michael Selmer said...

Lately, I'd been thinking about doing a memoir about my relationship with my father. I think few men are very honest about their father/son connection. Then he died on February 28 and now I know it is something I'll have to do. In fact, his death has perhaps freed me to be more honest than I might have been otherwise. When I write it, I'll trust the story to be worth telling as it happened.

Tamara said...

Very interesting, Michael! You should! I totally understand about being freed. Definitely trust the material. A well chosen detail is much more powerful than being handed a gloss.

I'm so sorry to hear about your father. My condolences. That's tough. My father passed away in 1991. Hang in there!