At The Millions earlier this month, Beth Kephart wrote on what she calls “the Outward-Looking Memoir” one which signifies, one which connects. Kephart begins,
Why, in the end, do we read memoir? What’s in it for us these stories about someone else, these hundreds of pages of adversity and self-discovery, triumph and tarnish and gleam?
Later, she asks, “So what does memoir offer? What can it yield? Why am I, after all these years, still reading it, teaching it, shaping it, seeking it?” Her essay, at its core, asks more than it tells. Yet she offers her personal reasoning:
The answers are many, but here I offer just one: Because memoir at its very best is the start of a conversation… True memoir is a singular life transformed into a signifying life. True memoir is a writer acknowledging that he or she is not the only one in the room.
The concept of a “true memoir,” as Kephart calls it, seems to relate at its most basic level to literal truth. At her essay’s beginning, Kephart mentions James Frey and Herman Rosenblat, whose “not-true ‘true’ stories” betrayed their readers’ trust. It was not that these were written poorly, not that they were inferior arts, but …read more

Via: Melville House Books