Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Big World of Memoirs

From all this stuff of the past week in the news....I came to this one single note that I noticed....which makes no sense.

The news folks have talked a great bit over the last month or two about this young gal Lena Dunham.....who wrote up a memoir at the youthful age of 28.  To be honest.....she was writing it when she was 27, and published at 28.  Lena's book (Not That Kind of Girl) isn't on my reader's list....mostly because I read historical stuff or Steinbeck.  I admit.....it's a pretty closed-off reader's list.

Dunham's big piece in the book, which draws lots of curious readers....is some rape scene with a Republican guy.  Several facts revolve around this scene and the description of the guy.....which we've been told this week that it's a composite character.

For those from rural areas of America....composite characters are when a writer has hit a block of misery and can't really fill in a space.....so they make up a scene and then try to throw in this character who is a mythical version of James Dean, Flip Wilson, Hulk Hogan, Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer, and the Lone Ranger.

Composite characters are this new trend in writing.  You write a mostly true-to-life book....getting the reader really into the story with juicy writing and real facts.....then you inject the composite guy/gal for the weaker moments that you can't really write facts.

You can imagine trying to do something like this in the 1930s and 1940s.....and a book publisher would have chased you out of the office.....refusing to publish garbage like this.  It was either FACT or FICTION.  You can't blend either into some type of engrossing novel.

But enough of this composite garbage.  What got to me this week....was the nature of a 'kid' (27 years old when writing it).....publishing a memoir.

Typically, a guy gets up to his fifties and starts thinking over life, and starts to write something like this.  The majority of memoirs don't get published until a guy is sixty to seventy years old.

President Obama released his memoir back in 1995....he was 34 years old and his chief accomplishment in life was six years of college and some community organizing efforts in Chicago.

Generally, I have a limited amount of respect for someone who spends a fair amount of time in their youth....who sit down and write some memoir of their accomplishments.  It's like some idiot sat there and told them they had a great story to tell.  If they'd been traveling across America by bicycle, spent an entire summer in Ireland with some hot lusty affair involving a pub mistress, or tamed lions for some Texas traveling circus.....maybe there's some great stuff there for a memoir.  But if the best you got is composite characters or chatting up on the brief two years at Harvard....there's just not much to say.

Do I read memoirs?  About the only memoir that I can recall reading completely through and having some interest in.....was George Orwell's piece on Homage to Catalonia.  From what I can remember....it was the Spanish Civil War period, and Orwell wrote up on his experience there.  From my memory (it's over thirty years ago that I read the book).....it was a fairly detailed piece and I was glad he was doing his 'duty' in Spain because I wouldn't have gone or sat through as many days of misery there as he put in.

So I come to this question.....should anyone take a twenty-seven year-old's memoir as significant?  The simple answer is "NO".  It's mostly gossip stuff that sounds juicy.  Beyond that?  There's not much of life accomplishment to regard as significant.  The sad thing is....we probably will get a Lena Dunham updated memoir about every six to ten years, for the remainder of her life.  Maybe when she gets up to around sixty years old....she'll just combine the half-dozen memoirs into one single memoir.....building up more composite characters, and getting us all enthusiastic about some real or fake scene.

Sadly, we accept stuff like this....as normal, which says a lot.

No comments: