EVERY SO OFTEN a week is so chock full of memoir news that I simply must share some of that bounty. These past few days have been that kind of time, and the news I have aggregated here for you includes an upcoming call for submissions, and a discussion of a book that is, according to the Man Booker prize-winning author, “not quite a memoir. Rather it is a view from old age.” Interesting distinction, I think, and one worth exploring. These and other wonders are what I found this week and offer here in a review of recent memoir in the news.
The writer is Penelope Lively, and her new book, Dancing Fish and Ammonites (Viking), discovers the beauty in growing old. Not a bad assignment, and especially worthwhile since she takes on one of the topics I get in nearly every class I teach — the bibliomemoir, where a writer attempts to explain what reading has done for her in this life. A tough subject, always, and rarely done well, Lively makes an essay of it, something I always suggest trying before taking it on at book length. Penelope Lively, on what she calls “life writing,” is worth the read.
What else? Well, you might remember that I am an obit addict. In fact, I’ve written that very line in an essay for NPR’s All Things Considered. This New York Times obituary will inspire you to stop thinking about what you want to do and do it.
Where to submit your memoir writing? Great question, and one I get all the time. I’ll be on the lookout for you, but for now, here is a call for submission from veterans. (In a previous version this post included a contest, referenced in a comment below. I have since taken out the reference after this and other offline emails pointed out some real flaws in the contest’s requirements. Thanks, readers).
Next up is news from a writer who startled everyone – including the publishing industry – when her memoir, The Middle Place, became a huge hit after its book trailer went viral. The writer is Kelly Corrigan, and what is she doing this time to differentiate her book? Get ready. She is touring her book at Talbot stores. That’s right. What’s the lesson here? When promoting a book, always think outside the box, unless that is a Talbot’s box, of course. This woman is shrewd, and all of us should pay attention to how she singles out something simple and new and succeeds. See how Kelly Corrigan is promoting her new book.
And speaking of boxes, a piece by writer and historian Joan Marans Dim, has two of them, wonderfully placed in the story, both at critical moments in this submission to the Opinionator pages of The New York Times. The piece, called simply My Husband’s Things, does everything right in the show, don’t tell, department of memoir rules. Lovely and smart, I’ll leave you with it.