Thursday, May 24, 2007

Writing a Family Memoir

I've attended a few author's events at Union Settlement, mostly question-and-answer sessions, with a signed free copy of memoir or novel at the end.

The first evening session featured Jonathan Franzen, author of The Discomfort Zone, my copy unsigned by choice. It's wedged on the bottom of my bookshelf in the hallway. I've picked it up and put it back many times. I'm not a hardcore Oprah fan, but I had a flashback to the temper tantrum he had when Lady O gushed and cooed on the literary merits of The Corrections. No need to rehash it here, anyone with a TV or Internet connection back then should be up to speed.

I still think he made a mountain of a mole hill, and should've graciously accepted the invitation and appeared on the show. I don't recall seeing him step out of a limousine at the event. His could've phoned in his answers to the predominantly Spanish-speaking attendees.

The other author on the panel was Donald Antrim, author of The Afterlife, a memoir I found infuriating until the end with unfocused musings on books, culture, and art. It was supposed to been an ode to his mother and her belief in the afterlife. I promised myself I'd read it completely, even after my roommate gave up within the first forty pages.

How can I write the first volume of a family memoir without reading the genre?

I am hoping for a better outcome with the next three memoirs on the shelf: The Liar's Club, Running with Scissors and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.

I have lots of old black-n-white and color family and neighborhood photos in various states of decay or fading, that I need to scan before too long. And I now have a serious group of creative nonfiction writers to workshop upcoming essays and memoir chapters. I'm looking forward to the process, which I know will be painful, but I'm determined to begin and finish the necessary work.

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