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February 1, 2011

“The Problem with Memoirs” from The New York Times

Filed under: Authors, MHS press — Alison Aten @ 5:09 pm

Tell Me TrueJudging by the comments on Neil Genzlinger’s roundup review of four recent memoirs in this past Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, many readers have a visceral reaction to the genre. Genzingler concluded:

“Three of the four did not need to be written, a ratio that probably applies to all memoirs published over the last two decades. Sorry to be so harsh, but this flood just has to be stopped. We don’t have that many trees left.”

Several years ago, the veracity of memoirs was under scrutiny; now it seems everyone thinks their life merits a memoir. The reviewer’s advice to would-be memoirists is, “if you still must write a memoir, consider making yourself the least important character in it.” What happens when you make “history” the main character?

Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life, edited by Patricia Hampl and Elaine Tyler May, gathers essays from award-winning memoirists and historians wrestling with the gray area where memory intersects with history and where the necessities of narrative collide with mundane facts. Read the intro here.

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