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Never have an affair with a memoir writer

25 January 2016

From The Washington Post:

You shouldn’t have affairs. But definitely don’t have one with a memoirist.

That’s one of the few real conclusions I can draw from “Why We Write About Ourselves,” a collection of reflections and justifications from 20 practitioners of the memoir art. You know they’re going to tell everyone about it.  It’s what they do. It’s all they do.

“The thing that was hardest to figure out was how to handle the affairs I had with men who were married,” says Pearl Cleage, a contributor to this volume. But she soon found a way. “Talking about those relationships didn’t make me look so good, but I wanted to talk about my own growth and development as a free woman who consciously committed to telling the truth about all things. No exceptions!” Memoirist Sandra Tsing Loh found another path to the same destination. “The most painful thing for me to write about was when I had an affair and blew up my marriage,” she says. “I tried to write about my affair in a way that made it clear that I was the worst-behaved character, to cast blame on no one other than me.”

. . . .

“Why We Write About Ourselves” offers a jumble of answers. They engage in memoir-writing as therapy, these authors say, except they absolutely don’t. They mix elements of fiction writing into their work, except they would never do that. And they go out of their way to avoid hurting other people in their memoirs, except when their memoirs couldn’t exist without other people’s hurt.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post


8 Comments to “Never have an affair with a memoir writer”

  1. There is a direct relationship between a person’s propensity towards writing memoirs and a person’s level of self-absorption.

    Lookin’ at you, Mary Carr. You’re brilliant but let’s keep our relationship through the page.

  2. Hmmm, instead of simply going to confession, they air their dirty laundry between the pages — in hopes that they can cash in on their deeds …

  3. Overblown, pretentious, claptrap.

  4. This appears to be the day for articles about disgusting behavior. Yes, pile your personal, and personally caused misery on the heads of the people you already hurt by being a selfish and morally reprehensible human being, namely the wives and husbands of the people you cheated with, and make it as public as possible just to rub it in a little more. All so you can talk about yourself and maybe make a little money.

    Sorry for posting two rants in one day. I promise that’s all.

    • Lydia, please rant all you want. You’re right about the reprehensible each time.

    • As a married man, I would dare to say that in an adulterous affair, the guilty/guiltier party is not the non-married one, but the married one.

      • “As a married man, I would dare to say that in an adulterous affair, the guilty/guiltier party is not the non-married one, but the married one.”

        Well, I’d say that that might be the wrong question to answer. The question is who has the right to privacy. I’d say the person who violates their own privacy (to mention nothing of other people) in order to make money can’t whine when people excoriate them.

        You’re not *wrong* at all. I’m not really arguing. But damn, the people in that article are reprehensible. “I slept with married men! *giggle*” NO.

  5. hmmm, there are some ‘memoir’ writers who are beyond valuable, in the ancient sciences for instance, writers who spoke as much about this and that in life, as about science. There are people whose lives are truly interesting, just read Ferlinghetti book, but bios and auto bios, merge in my mind, as being either trivial, then i met/slept with/ loved/hated/ worked with/ went crazy with, etc…. or serious– meaning those who were considered by some, iconic, and wrote say about their leading men to war for instance. Which though often barely readable if you have a heart condition, still give insight into something many many lived through also. So different kinds of autobios and bios. Some rank. Some superior in content.

    re hurting others. I would think any thoughtful writer would weigh that carefully for any number of reasons. But also rousing the sleeping enemy lion seems it would have to be weighed too. Althought FAR too often I’ve heard salacious editors urging the author to write ‘dirt.’ Because said editor lives a small life and thinks that’s what will sell.

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