Tag Archive | memoir

6 Things You Won’t See In My Memoir

I guess I should mention I am not writing a memoir and have no plans to ever pen one.  But that hasn’t (and shouldn’t) stop me from thinking about all the things I won’t be writing about in the book I don’t plan to write.

With me?

Good.

NOT my coffee cup

NOT my coffee cup

Here’s what you won’t be reading in the book I’m not writing:

  1. If Only I Hadn’t Been So Skinny. Have you seen this in memoirs? “I was such a skinny kid…” “I was pretty, but way too skinny.” In my not-oir you are never ever going to see this.  It’s hard for me not to chuck a memoir across the room when I come across the “poor me, I was so skinny” themes.  Because? Cannot relate.
  2. I Had So Much Random Sex With Celebrities. Perhaps I have read one too many books where the author coupled with the likes of Bill Clinton, Norman Mailer, or Baryshnikov.  I should stop reading those because I’ve never had random celebrity sex, but maybe if I had, I would be writing a memoir.
  3. We Were So Poor We Slept In the Car. Again, I have read so many rags-to-riches stories that now I think my humble ranch house in suburban Dallas will make for the most boring story in the world.  While I wasn’t allowed to get Guess jeans in 1985 unless I paid for them myself, that’s not nearly as exciting as living without plumbing or having one of my family members gamble our grocery money way.  Damn middle class upbringing.
  4. I Moved To The Big City All By Myself To Make it Big. While I did move from suburban Dallas to gritty, south side Chicago, I made that move to attend graduate school in Humanities. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as someone who moved from Tallapoosa, Mississippi to New York City to become an actor or a famous televangelist. Also? I don’t think that getting a post-graduate job as an admin assistant counts as “making it big.”
  5. I Went On A Long Spiritual Journey By Myself and Found My Bliss. Nope, this won’t be there either. I did once go to Mexico by myself in December 2004, but I almost went insane watching 24-hour coverage of the tsunami that hit Indonesia. I watched the death toll climb higher and higher, and there was no bliss to be found– a dead cockroach and a stale chocolate wafer, but there was no bliss.
  6. Then I made the winning shot/basket/goal. No. Just no.  There’s so much to love about sports, if only there were no balls or no need to work with other people under time pressure.  Oooh, and there’s all that touching and sweat.  If not for all that, maybe some triumphant Rudy-like passages might exist.  The best sports story I have is that I ran a half marathon while my nipples were bleeding and the guy who had recently dumped me ran right past me (who was gasping for breath about to die of exhaustion), while chatting with his new sporty girlfriend (the kind who could run a half marathon in a tiny sports bra).  Don’t worry: You won’t ever have to read about that incident again, because I am not writing a memoir.

What’s not appearing in your memoir?

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2012 Book Review in 140 Characters (Or Less)

I have a piece of unfinished business from last year: my book reviews. It’s like a piece of food left between my teeth from breakfast that I have to get out so I can concentrate more fully on my lunch (which will, undoubtedly, consist of processed cheese product and buttered starches).

But listen: I’m busy; you’re busy.  Who has time to read 25 bloated book reviews from a Mommy blogger? If you have that kind of time you either have insomnia or a trust fund.  Either way, God speed.

But for the rest of you, I am paring down my review to a mere 140 characters as an ode to Twitter, which is rich irony, considering that Twitter is the antithesis of a real, actual book that I hold in my hands and can pass on to another reader. (I’m not a Kindle convert.)

So, without further ado, here are my reviews for the books I read in 2012:

Undress Me In the Temple of Heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman

Read this travelogue about two girls romping through Communist China- one went insane and the other wrote an incredible book of a harrowing journey. (How jealous must the insane girl be today?)

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

At one point, she lost all of Hemingway’s drafts, which I think of whenever I lose snippets of my WIP.  This book proves many things we already know (H was an ass), but it’s a masterful read from the view of his first wife.

Everything Changes, by Jonathan Tropper

Bad mood? Read Tropper.  Wanna get inside a thinking man’s head? Read Tropper.  Funny and heartfelt, but still our beloved, irreverent Tropper.

The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Patchett

Patchett’s first novel– how the hell did she do that? Even the names of her characters are perfect.  I envy her talent and her unforgettable stories, especially this one.

Make Me Into Zeus’ Daughter, by Barbara Robinette Moss

Meh.  Horrible alcoholic family from which emerged an articulate daughter who lives to tell the tale.  Skip this and read Glass Castle.

5Am Fifth Avenue, by Sam Wasson

Light as air, but if you care to learn more about where Breakfast at Tiffany’s fits within the popular imagination, read it.  Stoked my love for Capote, Hepburn, and “old” Hollywood.

Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Un-f*cking-believable story.  How Walls survived the mayhem and chaos of her early years is nearly impossible to imagine, but thank God she did, because her writing is truly art.  Put this at the top of your list: memoir at its finest.

Swamplandia, by Karen Russell

Another first novel.  The most original book I have ever read.  Still smarting on its behalf for the snub from the Pulitzer’s.  Seriously– this book is odd and memorable.  Also: disturbing because of the rape scene deep in the Everglades.

Little 15, by Stephanie Saye

Star basketball player has an affair with her coach while she’s still in high school.  Strikes fear in the heart of any mother, and illuminates a story behind headlines we see too often.  An important read.

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides

No, it’s not Middlesex, but you have to move on.  I loved this story about precocious Ivy Leaguers figuring out love while also meditating on spirituality and semiotics. Made me feel smart to read this.

Truth & Beauty, by Ann Patchett

Read this. Read this. Read this.  Incredible portrait of a long friendship between two writers.  Codependence galore from my favorite Ms. Annie P, but I loved the peeks into her writing process that are woven through the story.

Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Not gonna lie, this one is a little dry.  Anyone struggling with whether she/he is worthy of creating art or who battles fear of the blank page/canvas/clay, this book puts fear in context and reminds the artist: just do it.

The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison

The protagonist has a sexual affair with her father.  How, in good conscience, can I recommend this to anyone? Still turns my stomach to think of it.  Don’t know what else to say.

Say When, by Elizabeth Berg

Sweet read about a marriage that falls apart and then falls together.  Didn’t change my life, but also didn’t hurt it.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

Don’t make me review this again.  Just don’t.

Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James

Yes, I went back for a second helping.  There were some long days of summer that I had to get through while Jeff was away. Don’t judge.

Drop Dead Healthy, by A.J. Jacobs

Hilarious year-long project recorded by Jacobs, who tried to become healthy in every aspect of his life.  I actually got a lot of health information from this book, which is fascinating.  He taught me to cook on the back burners of the stove because it’s safer.

Bringing In Finn, by Sara Connell

Her mother gave birth to her son.  Think about it, then read this gorgeous tale of healing, family and triumph. Then give it to your mother and see if she freaks out because she thinks you are asking her to carry your baby in her womb.

The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson

A humorous meditation on what it means to be Jewish.  As a shiksa married to a Jewish man, I thoroughly enjoyed the questions raised and the answers suggested.  Won’t lie: it’s a little ponderous, but there are some brilliant characters.

Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

You, and 7 billion people have seen her YouTube videos from TED about shame. So, go read her book.  Unless you’ve never felt shame, in which case, read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, because he hasn’t either.

Too Good To Be True, by Benjamin Anastas

Know anyone intimately involved with CoinStar machines because times are tough and he needs milk for his son?  Well, meet Anastas.  He lays out his financial and personal ruin after being an on-the-rise author.  A generous and intimate tale of loss.

Little Red Guard, Wenguang Huang

I would have sucked at being Communist, and this book proves it.  It’s also criminal how little I knew about China’s recent history and the hardships faced by the Chinese people.  This book made me downright patriotic and proud of being American (until that asshat NRA guy gave his speech about “good guys with guns” and I got a little down-on-America again).

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Who is this zany Lawson?  Who cares! She’s written a hilarious tale about taxidermy and rural life in Wall, Texas.  All bloggers should read this, because it’s funny and she’s a blogger.

The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg

She nailed it here: The tensions between the characters.  The relationships that family members have to addiction (mainly food addiction here) and the stuckness of it all.  I am still stunned by Attenberg’s ability to “show not tell.”

Signs of Life, by Natalie Taylor

I cried reading the first paragraph.  I cried all through this book, but in the end, I appreciated  my life and my husband more than I did before I started.  Natural result of reading about a woman who loses her husband in a freak accident when she’s 5 months pregnant.

* * *

Here’s to more books in 2013– I am already halfway through Gone Girl– It’s going to be a great year for reading.

I Finally Finished The Blogess’ Book And Promptly Called 911

I started Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened when I boarded the plane for New York City for BlogHer ’12.  And I just finished it today (almost 4 months later).  I stalled on completing it because I was afraid it would make me suicidal to see how funny and excellent her writing is.

So, as soon as I read the last page, I called 911 and told the operator that I was despondent because there was no point in living any more, even for my passion– writing– because Jenny Lawson had already done everything worth doing in her recent memoir and her wildly popular blog.

The operator asked me if I had a family. “What about them?” I asked.  The operator seemed to think that maybe I should consider living for them, instead of being a selfish coward by doing myself in just because Jenny Lawson is funnier than I am, had a wackier childhood, has a much more colorful array of stuff to write about, and is staggeringly talented.

“But, I grew up in boring old Dallas. My parents’ hobbies were 12-step meetings, antique-ing, and collecting wooden statues of praying monks. I can’t compete with taxidermy; Wall, Texas; and wire chickens!”

The operator was not impressed with my plaintive cries.

“Actually, collecting wooden statues of monks praying is the same thing as antique-ing, so really they only have 2 hobbies between them.  Goddamn it! It’s worse than I thought.”

911 operators are really obsessed with family.  She kept bringing the conversation back to my children– “how old are they?  what are their names?”

I hate being distracted from my pain, so I answered her questions and steered the conversation back to Ms. Lawson, the darling of the blogging world, who is not only wildly successful, but by all accounts, sounds nice as hell.

I read every single word.  Even the acknowledgements were hilarious, and turns out that Ms. Lawson thanked Brene Brown, whose book I read a few weeks ago.  Those two know each other?  If I lived in Texas, could I be friends with them? When I thought about how sad I would feel if I lived in Texas and wasn’t friends with Ms. Lawson and Ms. Brown, I started feeling depressed again, but didn’t call 911, but that operator should not have been so shaming to me. I was in pain. I thought 911 operators were trained to deal with “cries for help.”

Of all the bloggers-turn-book-writers I have read, and I try to hit them all, there is something about Ms. Lawson’s that got me the most. I know I wasn’t supposed to be crying at the end of those stories about her smuggling a stuffed alligator or being attacked by wild dogs, but I was.

Because she did something magical in her memoir, something I don’t know if I will ever be able to do.  But, with her book as my north star (or white whale, if you prefer), I will trudge through the rough drafts and crappy blog posts.  Because she set the bar almost higher than I can see, but not so high I’m not willing to make a running leap for it.

I guess she’s an idol of sorts, even though my first two books are fiction and not supposed to be funny, unless I find an agent who thinks they are hysterical, in which case, comedies– they are totally comedies.

As for Ms. Lawson’s book, you should read it– it’s seriously funny and light without being vapid and the writing is sharp and insightful.  I want you to read it and love it, but before you tell me how much you love it, just be sure I have taken all my medication and can tolerate your gushing over her.