day 67 – Memoir book reviews – continued

The dark childhood motif is varied.  Some memoirists sound bitter or amused or have genuine compassion for their now old or dead parents.  They are interesting, to say the least, and it always makes you compare it to your own.

Chief among these memoirs is Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and his sequel Dry about his addictions and alcoholism.  Lurid and comical, Burroughs engages you with wild descriptions and off the charts dialogue.  His dark and humorless A Wolf at the Table, is his latest and waiting on the shelf for me when I am ready to wade through his secrets of dysfunctional, abusive and hellacious passages of time he survived purely by writing everyday, all day – making him a superb yet disturbing author.

The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr was a breakthrough memoir in 1995.  It was the first of many later imitations of revealing past injustices done to a minor in full Technicolor, with no holding back and in explicit graphic detail.  Her life as a youngster is told in a witty yet brutally honest voice.  She went on to write her teen and older memoirs, Cherry and Lit but I have yet to indulge in her excruciating sequels in life.  I know Cherry is about her teenage years and diving into the abyss of wanton behavior and Lit is about her alcoholism.  It’s amazing but whether it’s the Titanic or your own hand, a survivor’s story is still attractive to me.

Jeanette Walls wrote a classy documentation of a neglectful yet colorful family in The Glass Castle.  Several times, I wanted to wring her mother or father’s neck, but she tells her story in a detached, child filled fantasy way and so it is less hostile and more forgiving and understanding in tone than both Burroughs and Karr.  Still, it might  animate and jar  your senses.  It made me feel sorry yet triumphant for Walls, after all she did live to tell about it, with no senseless blame on her part which shows maturity and a certain therapeutic edge probably induced mainly by distance of time and much healing on someone’s couch.  She also wrote and I read Half Broke Horses, which is a true-life novel, based on her grandmother’s adventurous life in the frontier.  Thank you J for gifting me this book.

In the grief category, I have heard time and again that there is no one equal to Joan Didion exploring her personal ordeal in The Year of Magical Thinking.  I have it on my bookshelf, waiting for the right time to read her suffering.

In the surviving and observing atrocious circumstances theme, I vote for Night by Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.  It is a terrifying account of the Holocaust.  Also, waiting for me, but highly endorsed by my teenagers as a must read.

I have to need a good cry to read these two and plenty of alone time to contemplate after.  But I recommend them because I know it’s great writing and one of these days the mood will strike.   A box of tissues waits.


4 thoughts on “day 67 – Memoir book reviews – continued

  1. I really think you would appreciate THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. I felt terribly sad when I read it, but also so in awe of how well she knew herself, even when looking at her own denial.
    I never read BROKEN and would probably appreciate it. I have read nearly all the others and though after indulging in far too many memoirs in the last decade I agree … They must bring so much clarity and renewal to the writers.

    I signed up for a retreat in the bay area out by Point Reyes. You wil not believe it- a knitting and Yoga retreat. I thought I might screw up my courage and offer to go a Yoga Nidra for those who are interested.
    I am psyched about this.

  2. I will get on that book. Your retreat sounds wonderful. Great spot! Totally give a Yoga Nidra class! Who are you rooming with, old buddy?

  3. Thank you, Cecilia. Your words and encouragement have helped me to begin healing- acknowledging the depth of guilt and pain I have buried in my heart. Xoxo

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