If you follow memoir in the news (one of the categories in this blog which could easily be ten times larger if I followed all the relevant stories here), you probably have read Neil Genzlinger’s savage review of three recently published memoirs (along with praise for a fourth one) in the The New York Times Sunday Book Review. Genzlinger sounds a little like gunslinger, and his attitude resembles Gary Cooper’s in High Noon. He stands alone on a dusty street, single-handedly ready to save the world from the effluvia of badly written, unnecessary memoirs.
Genzlinger is staff editor at The New York Times. Like a number of other critics of the genre, he prefers that those of us with uninteresting lives keep our stories to ourselves.
The questions begged by this review include:
- What makes a life interesting or uninteresting? And who gets to judge?
- Is the quality of a memoir determined by the drama of its story or the elite status of the writer in some other realm? Or can a person of no extraordinary life write a memoir masterpiece?
I encourage you to read the article and then share your opinion here. Have you ever read a memoir that could more productively been turned into bedding for the horses?