From there I also realized that shock value had obscured certain aspects of the stories. One of the authors seemed to be relying on sensationalism to hold reader attention. The story had little substance and never came to any closure or significant insight. This account of a daughter’s dysfunctional relationship with her father didn’t achieve any significant resolution by the end of the story, and served mostly to air a lot of psychic navel gazing. According to Amazon reviews, some people found it hilarious, others thought it never should have been published. There were few mid-range ratings. After discounting the shock factor, based on its literary merit, I tend to agree with the latter.
Aside from a few instances of raised eyebrows, the second book was interesting and eloquently written, with well-developed scenes and delightful description. Although positioned and described as a memoir, it’s actually a collection of free-standing essay-stories, lacking plot and storyline. Each chapter is compellingly written with a generous dose of self-deprecating humor and considerable insight, but little movement. They simply portray deftly described slices of life, focused on a specific theme. As a book of essays, it’s terrific. As a formal memoir, it’s sadly lacking.
I derived several conclusions from reading these books:
- It’s difficult to read across generations without triggering biases of our own.
- With creative description, and perhaps a bit of humor, ordinary life can make compelling reading.
- No matter how much love, sweat and tears we pour into our memoir, it will never appeal to every reader.
- Stories with plots, tension, and integrated scenes more effectively keep my attention than scattered scenes.
- If these two books attracted traditional publishers, there’s hope for nearly any story.
- Reading memoir written by younger generations can be as enlightening as reading memoir written by earlier ones.
Write now: think back through you have read and explore your feelings about the content. Did you read anything shocking? How did that affect you? What elements of them kept your attention? How can you incorporate these insights into your writing?