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Intro Music by Fretts!

Our intro and our outro music is Your Government Loves You and Wants You to be Happy, by Fretts! If you love it as much as we do, you can find more beautiful music at fretts.bandcamp.com!

Thanks for the Memoiries.

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What We’re Drinking:

Golden Gate Gose from the Almanac Brewing Company. James liked this, but he didn’t think it was as good as the other sours I’ve brought him. I liked the fact that I could taste more of the beery flavor in this one, though it had a skunkiness that I didn’t enjoy.

What We’re Saying:

Today we’re being mean to memoirists. I want to say before we start that there are good memoirs out there, I’ve read good memoirs, and I don’t think the art itself as a whole needs to go away.

It’s just that there’s so many people out there who are writing memoirs and treat them like they’re the next great book to hit American culture, and they tend to be vanity projects or pieces of family histories. It’s the kind of thing that wealthy ladies seem to start as a part of their retirement. The memoirists that I’ve met seem to be older, middle class white ladies.

James and I have both noticed that in conferences and other gatherings, older folks writing memoirs tend to treat younger authors or popular fiction authors with a certain amount of disdain. I’m not sure where that comes from. Maybe it’s the thought that fiction or genre fiction is somehow trashy or easy to produce. Or maybe it’s  that they feel that fiction is the less honest, less revealing form out of the two.

First thing that bothers me about memoirs, and this is something I’ve experienced on my own when writing narrative non-fiction essays, most of the things that you think are the most impactful or dramatic or touching in your life are that way because you view them through the lens of your own life. It usually doesn’t have the same effect on readers. Your revelation may seem to others as simple and obvious and your memoir comes off as sounding like poorly written satire.

The stuff that people want to read isn’t basically the life story of a former homemaker or whatever, it’s things from other cultures, experiences outside of our frames of reference.

At a recent writer’s conference, James had the unnerving experience of listening to a crowd of writers pitch their books that were memoirs about people and their boats. This was a conference that neither of us would have had any business affording to attend; he was only there because our school paid for him to go, and he describes it like it was a different world.

One of my main issues with the memoir as a form is that it’s a writing style that is unabashedly centered around the author. It serves the ego, instead of serving the reader. And frankly, one of the things about writing fiction that keeps me honest is the fact that I’m working in service to the reader. And for me that’s really the difference. I write about my own personal experiences in my fiction, I just write about them in a more abstract or conceptualized way that makes those experiences more available to the audience.

In closing, I want to say that if you’re out there producing good work, putting in the hours and making stuff that makes readers happy, I don’t give a shit if it’s fiction or not. Just do good work.

 

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