Saturday, October 24, 2009

Memoir Memories

Yesterday I had a very busy day of running around to various appointments that I hadn't gone to while I was dealing with The Cancer. It was finally time for the dentist, the optometrist and the therapist. I'm still trying to squeeze in the massage and the mani/pedi appointments, but the practical side of me took over and insisted on those other things first (and of course, when I started arguing with the practical me it became obvious how much the therapy appointment was needed and just like that practical me won. It was just sad. And practical me just said "Duh.")

I did have a little time to kill between appointments (okay and after they were all done) so after buying some practical, basic black pants that can be worn with flat shoes (and not look like the proverbial flood was chasing me) I found myself in Borders. I ambled by a section--you know, maybe one bookcase full--that had memoirs displayed. I stopped and perused to see if memoirs were still hot, what was out, and well, just to peruse. I've been reading memoirs lately as I contemplate (and type) my own little dog cancer/ breast cancer/ everyone survives story. I looked, and I picked up a few, and I turned the corner and there were more. And then more, and then more. Really, a whole large section of them! My first thought was "Holy Capitalism! Memoirs are totally hot! Everybody loves them!" followed swiftly by, "yikes, even were I shockingly able to finish mine, by the time I even started approaching agents the inevitable backlash against memoirs will have occurred (think "chick lit"--although the backlash was not fatal; not at all)."

Then I looked more closely...the section I was standing in was actually labeled "Memoir and Biography." What caused me to look up and notice that was that Senator Ted Kennedy's book "True Compass" was there.  I don't know. Can a 532 page book that spans a lifetime really be a "memoir"? Mark the moment I noticed that the word "autobiograpy" has left the lexicon of publishing. So, okay, they'll mix autobiography (generally, a life story written by someone who you had heard of before you rambled into Borders and picked up his/her book) and memoir (generally, a shorter book of a life experience or theme or moment or unique something or other by someone with an interesting voice, story, or relative in publishing). Okay, publishing no longer wants to decide between those things, or shoppers eyes glaze over at "autobiograpy." Okay. But, um....biography too? My brain was having trouble with this. Biographies are usually studied, researched, academic-like tomes written by superreallysmartliterate people. Professors and stuff. It seemed incongruous they'd be sharing shelf space with diseaseoftheweek/southernfamily/ funnyaddiction/ fatskinnybodyissue stories written by...well, anyone and everyone pretty much.

And then as though to demonstrate my point, straight in front of me was Valerie Bertinelli's "Finding It" right next to..."American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House." Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a Valerie Bertinelli fan (loved One Day at a Time in its day), but these do not seem like the same type of book. Is anybody going to find themselves in that section deciding between these books? No, no they aren't. (Are they??).  So I decided the good news is, we can all now still pretend to have very highbrow reading taste while snooping around in books like
Leaving Dirty Jersey: A Crystal Meth Memoir (by James Salant).

Other things I noted in the Memoir & Biography section: the book about Dana and Christopher Reeve has on the cover a very unattractive photo of them and yet they were both very beautiful people. Ditto for Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi (is their book memoir or biography? Discuss amongst yourselves). And yet, Mackenzie Phillips who is, well, let's just say, no Valerie Bertinelli,  has an absolutely gorgeous book cover. Which, you know, should be the case for a book called "High on Arrival."

But the most inspirational discovery was finding that a woman who is likely only in her early 40's already had 4 memoirs out!! 4! That's like 800 pages on her life. And no, you don't know who she is...but her name is Jen Lancaster and she wrote Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Ego-maniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office; Pretty in Plaid, A Life, A Witch and A Wardrobe, Or, the Wonder Years before the Condescending, Ego-maniacal, Self-Centered Smartass Phase; Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if her Life Makes her Ass Look Big Or, Why Pie is not the Answerl; and, Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent Surly Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, Or, Who are these Idiots and Why do they All Live Next Door to Me.  No, I didn't make up any part of those titles, and yes, those are only 4 books.

So, after my little research foray yesterday, I think I will just  keep plodding along on my little "My dog and I both survived cancer" book, Or, "How a Surly, Narcissistic, Condescending Beagle with Cancer on his Ass, helped a Bitter, Sarcastic, Big Ass girl get through Cancer in her Boob."  It's like a biography, only not. At all. 


  1. I connected to your blog through another
    blog. I liked the survivor vacation idea. I like what you write about. Check out my blog and see what you think.

  2. Hello Teresa!

    I wanted to let you know about an interesting cancer blog a group of cancer patients have been working on.

    A fellow tongue cancer patient was sent home to die. There was nothing more that can be done. Cancer survivors ask him life altering questions.

    Please read: Dead Man Talking

    Peace B


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