I've been reading memoirs in preparation for--well, I don't like to say what for, so suffice to say I'm delving deep into the world of memoir. It's a genre I've mostly avoided, in part because the form reminds me of testimony time at church, back when I was a kid, and as a born-and-raised p.k. let me tell you, I've heard puh-lenty of maudlin tales. I'm also no fan of sappy endings, everything has a reason narratives, or true-love-conquers-all kind of quatsch.
Exceptions to my strict no-memoir rule have been: Katharine Hepburn's Me, and Agatha Christie's An Autobiography, both life stories related by iconoclastic females who succeeded by being themselves, ignoring or subverting the male gaze, and looking, as far as I can tell, to impress no one. So I'll definitely re-read those.
In service to research I've read, mainly courtesy of the SPL in the past couple of weeks:
I couldn't finish the Rick Bragg book. The dialect, or more precisely, the good-old-boy prose rhythms, really bothered me. His mom sounded courageous but a whole book? Not for me.
Boy I've read many times, and it's more a collection of anecdotes, than a proper memoir, but I enjoyed Dahl's easy prose and vivid scenes. For me it added up to a tale of a European childhood no longer possible, the genesis of so many classic and beloved books. And yet I remembered as I read that, per his daughter and ex-wife, Roald Dahl grew up to be a less than kind and generous human being.
Didion's book is a real gut punch, beautifully written of course and a perhaps unintended window into the Writerly Classes I've always feared and yet somehow envied their LA/Upper East Side/Hawaii circuit.
So, the reading continues.
Also, keep an eye here for fiction news in a couple of weeks. A story I've loved and been shopping around has finally found a home.