I'm Just Saying…

February 8, 2012

Memoirs of Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — jillamyrosenblatt @ 11:59 pm
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mem·oir noun / ‘mem-,wãr, -,wȯr\

2 a: a narrative composed from personal experience

3 a: an account of something noteworthy

 

            Let’s have a moratorium on memoirs, shall we? There was a time when the memoir was something big. A person in the twilight of their years, aware of their advancing age, wanted to say something sage and wise about their life and times. Consider these titles, All Rivers Run to the Sea by Elie Wiesel, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, First Step 2 Forever: My Story by Justin Bieber… Excuse me? Justin Bieber? Really? Really? Elie Wiesel, Joan Didion and the Bieber? I took a look at The Bieb’s Table of Contents. “A Secret Musician,” “You Tube: My First Million.” You see my problem.  

            In days past, we looked to the memoir to give us a glimpse into the lives of people whose sphere of experience and influence was so much deeper, greater, oftentimes grander than our own, even if not in a way we would ever want to experience. Even if they were a celebrity, they should have made a major contribution to the culture in film, books, music, or style. Vanna White turning letters and writing about it is not a link in the chain of the cultural lexicon. I’m talking zeitgeist here people. And for the record, Justin Bieber’s haircut does not qualify as zeitgeist. The Beatles already did that. You can’t dip into that well twice. I’m just saying.

            We need to take a stand against memoirs written by people who have no memoirs to write. This trend is not just destroying the memoir, it’s affecting America’s theatre experience. When I attend a  live performance, I want to see drama filled with narrative drive, hear tightly written dialogue, recognize meaningful plot turning points and have a satisfying emotional experience. Is that too much to ask? Take a trip to New York’s Triad Theatre and you’ll find “Celebrity Autobiography: The Next Chapter,” a show where celebrities read the memoirs of other celebrities. I understand the show was inspired by creator Eugene Pack reading a biography of…care to guess? Vanna White. To date over 300 memoirs have been used as material, including Justin Bieber’s. 

            With all this in mind, here are my humble suggestions for rules of the road for the Memoir:

1. No one under the age of 60 should be writing a memoir. That’s it. Hopefully that person will have enough time to commit their life to paper before they start forgetting everything. If not, we’re out of luck.

2. Occupation: Your activities in your occupation need to have contributed positively to the advancement of your field and/or the world at large. I don’t care how subjective that sounds. Tough-O. The average human spends 20% of their lives working. If the majority of your “job” includes personal maintenance and upkeep, odds are you clock a whopping number of hours consumed with mani/pedi care, pilates, power juicing, and liposuction. Your skin may be luminous, you may be able to bounce a quarter off your backside, but we don’t need to hear about it. Save a tree and spare us the details.

3. On-Air Confessions Prior To The Written Confession: Have you ever noticed how right before a memoir is released the author is on television making a “bombshell” revelation? This exclusive usually sounds something like “I was a secret-Milky Way-binge-eating-anorexic- bulemic-former-stripper-with-a-sex-tape-I-didn’t-know-was-being-made-who-suffered-from- severe-depression-for-ten-minutes-after-my-fourth-divorce-and-I’ve-been-celibate-now-for-three-months, eight-days-and-sixteen-hours, by choice.” Buy the memoir and you can read all the gory details.

Listen to me, memoir writing people. Your problems, real or imagined, are no different than those of the average 16 year old, only they have less money. Therefore, it is unnecessary to decimate a forest and drive the Lorax to despair unless you can come up with something better than “I smoked pot and inhaled, then lost my virginity with my mother’s boyfriend’s cousin in a car last summer behind the Dairy Delight.” Good for you. Keep it to yourself.

4. Political memoirs: Okay, candidates! New rule! No writing of memoirs unless you actually win the presidency. It’s extremely painful to discover how vapidly ordinary a candidate is before an election. It completely eliminates any chance of claiming buyer’s remorse. Instead of tales of foreign policy conundrums and tough decisions in the Situation Room, we get a three hundred page campaign speech with sweeping, maudlin statements proclaiming a deep and devoted love of country, apple pie…and of course mom. Depending on what part of the country the candidate hails from this list can include love of guns, wildlife (soon to be dispatched by said firearms), and the occasional desire to dismantle our pesky Constitution, piece by piece. This new rule will also take care of those quaint curriculum vitae rewrites candidates do when they’re trying to win a larger section of the base and think a reprint with a blatant, inventive overhaul of  their core beliefs and values might help. There is no section in the library for Fictional Memoirs. I’m just saying. 

5. The Kardashians: this groups gets a special mention. No one in this clan is to be allowed access to a pen, paper, a laptop, or an iPad for the purposes of documenting their experiences for posterity. Listen to me girls: purchasing a $3000 Prada bag does not qualify as a life event…period. Acquiring items that require a home equity loan for the rest of us only serves as a cautionary tale, not inspiration. You bought a product you can’t eat or sleep on if you go broke. Now, that’s a life lesson.

            Fran Lebowitz said “Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try.” And maybe Thoreau didn’t mean to say “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Maybe what he meant to say was “the mass of men lead lives of quiet standardization.” Let’s face it, our lives all share qualities of sameness. I’ve been going to the same supermarket for the past five years and I have the same items in my shopping cart—every week. Perhaps we can take some comfort in the fact that our lives are not that different, that as we go through all our sorrows and triumphs, the odds are there are millions of doppelgangers out there, going through the same thing. But that doesn’t mean we need to kill a tree, put it on paper, and share. I’m just saying.

 

 

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