HTMLGIANT | Dinty W. Moore on Memoir

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

HTMLGiant, the literary blog with the liveliest comment section around, has a new feature where folks are asked to recommend six books, old or new, and to start the feature off they’ve asked Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore to recommend memoirs. Here’s what he had to offer.

Narrowing my list of representative memoirs down to six was an agonizing task, because there are so many solid examples. To keep the undertaking manageable (barely), I’ve limited myself to the last twenty years or so, and instead of a ‘favorites’ list, I’ve chosen six examples that I think show the range of what memoir can do.

My concise description of memoir is “the truth, artfully arranged.” Now we can argue about the meaning of the word truth for weeks, but I’d rather not. I think – despite all of the weakness of memory (and for that matter, observation) – that sophisticated readers understand that the truth they are given in memoir is the author’s subjective truth. There is no hope of objective accuracy, nor would that be as interesting to read. But you go after your truth, with honest intent. That means that an author who is willingly, consciously subverting what he remembers is not writing memoir, by my definition. Cross that line, and you are writing fiction. Which is fine, but it is another project entirely.

So I’ve pulled these six memoirs down from my shelves to illustrate how a life can be presented artfully.  Here they aare:

DINTY W. MOORE’S MEMOIR RECOMMENDATIONS

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