October 1st, 2010 by Melissa Febos and Sara Marcus
“If, when you begin the process, you plan on leaving out things that you think are going to hurt other people, then don’t even bother writing the book. Even when you think you know the whole story, you don’t until you get to the end.”
Melissa Febos is author of the memoir Whip Smart, a literary journey through her drug addiction and life working as a dominatrix. Sara Marcus is author of the new book Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, a history of the movement and bands that sparked an angry, loud, and important feminist revolution among young punk girls of the nineties. Febos and Marcus got together to talk, and occasionally finish each others’ sentences, about writing their books, narratives of all kinds, and the importance of not holding back when writing about yourself and other people. Read more »
“I don’t think of myself as an infertile person who wanted to share her story. I’m an artist who happened to be going through infertility. I love to draw and tell funny stories in which I am the star.”
Many of us who grew up in the middle class and attended liberal arts schools have a subtle, yet false, notion of personal entitlement that says, if we do the right thing–self-actualize, remain loyal to our partners, buy organic, and don’t steal magazines from our therapist’s office–that somehow life will deliver the things that we want. Yet as Phoebe Potts discovers–and then illustrates–in her touching new graphic novel, Good Eggs, these solid American values don’t always translate into getting what you want, especially when it comes to having a biological family. Read more »
Our friends over at Creative Nonfiction, a wonderful on and offline outlet that focuses on memoir, literary journalism, and personal essays, have a new issue out paying tribute to two nonfiction lions, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese (his Six-Word Memoir: “Friendship test: willing to be inconvenienced”). The issue also debuts a column by Heidi Julavits called “miserablish,” and it will surely be smart and sly and wry, and the opposite of whatever that word “miserablish” might mean. Subscribe to CNF and/or order the most recent issue.
“Yoga hasn’t made writing some easy magical thing for me. Perhaps it made me slightly more honest, slightly more careful about what I put on the page.”
Neil Pollack first appeared on the cultural radar as an early contributor to McSweeney’s and a satirical novelist. One of the most cynical of a strikingly jaded generation of writers, he enjoyed a meteoric rise followed by a blistering descent as he alienated his peers (with his behavior) and his agent (with poor book sales). But something happened on the way to the cut-out bin. Pollack found yoga. And with it he found authenticity. In his highly entertaining new book, Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, he chronicles his journey from self-absorbed (and self-loathing) enfant terrible to open-hearted, uncritical student of asana and meditation. Read more »
Memoirville recommends… a brief review of Paul Guest’s memoir, One More Theory About Happiness, on Bookslut. Guest writes about his life after a tragic bicycle accident at age twelve left him paralyzed. Reviewer Beth Harrington admits that the book feels like pieced together anecdotes, but cannot deny Guest’s stunning use of language to convey the complexity of touch and bodily sensation.
Also on Bookslut this month is an interview with memoirist Rachel Shukert about her book, Everything is Going to Be Great. Shukert talks about how she decided to pursue writing and a bit about her travel memoir in relation to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. You can read more about Shukert’s writing processes and use of humor in an interview with her here at Memoirville.
“I thought I was setting out to write a really objective, journalistic book about modern American attitudes about anger. Then my whole life began to implode. It only seemed honest to turn the book into a memoir.”
Koren Zailckas set the tone of her book, Fury, to be a journalistic meditation about the nature of anger. However, during the year she was writing it, her life took an unexpected dip and she began to be consumed by the volatile emotion herself. Read more »
Also this month is the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival. On Sunday, September 12th, authors and book lovers will take over Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom, St. Francis College Auditorium, and the Brooklyn Historical Society. The list of authors who will speak is immense; this is a tiny taste of some of the memoirists who will be there: Steve Almond, Piper Kerman, Roseanne Cash, Neal Pollack, Stephen Elliot, Sarah Silverman, and many more.
“I was writing the book at the same time that I was feeling very private, and these two things were coming towards each other in a collision course. Which one would win?”
What could Carl Jung and an American boy raised in Denver, CO possibly have in common? A lot, actually. Especially if that boy is Micah Toub, the son of two Jungian-trained therapists and author of the new memoir, Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks. Raised in a version of suburban America in which a trip to Skipper’s seafood chain restaurant could easily veer off into the land of “magical beings and visits from E.T.,” Toub was encouraged by his parents to consult his ally, confront his shadow, linger in “double-meta land,” and, after failing to get a hard-on during his first sexual encounter (yep, he went there), “become the erection.” Read more »
“The memories felt encased. They were so accessible. I did not have to work to find the things I needed to write about. I think when the heart seizes, the mind grabs on, for whatever purpose.”
In the mid-1990s, Gail Caldwell–staff writer and critic for The Boston Globe–met bestselling memoirist Caroline Knapp (Drinking: A Love Story and Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs). Both writers, dog lovers, former drinkers, and natural loners, the two women formed an intense bond. They became the kind of friends who live their lives side by side, speaking several times a day, walking their dogs and wandering the woods together near their joint hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read more »
Jonathan Franzen recently voiced his distaste for book trailers (while making one himself for his new book, Freedom). “This might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this,” he says. “To me, the point of a novel is to take you to a still place. You can multitask with a lot of things, but you can’t really multitask reading a book. You’re either reading a book or you’re not. To me, the world of books is the quiet alternative and a more desperately needed alternative.”
Could be. Still, here at Memoirville we like to spread the word about book trailers we fancy. Exhibit K: Koren Zailckas’ new memoir, Fury, is a journey through her process of learning how to deal with her anger and rage. Even though she wrote a book, she does not take her readers to a still and quiet place. And neither does her trailer.
We also like that it looks like she made this video in her living room, with her family, and had fun doing so. Look out for an interview with Zailckas here on Memoirville right after Labor Day.