Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birthing and Marrying Relatives, Views on Education and Absurd Speculations on the Sincerity of Memoir

On June 30, I gained a nephew and niece through marriage. I'll be getting my first niece by blood relation at some point in the next couple days. Strangely shocking but very neat.

Cool as that news is, it doesn't really help the word count for this entry.

I've been thinking about memoirs for the last couple days, inspired by a late night discussion that I had with the wife and someone considering going to grad school for creative nonfiction. The conversation, itself, really harked back to the days of late night undergrad discussions. . .which I didn't actually experience. Most of my crazy non-assignment-related late nights in undergrad were spent doing silly fun things with the fascist fun party or cursing myself for having insomnia.

A disclaimer in regards to my view on grad school or any college experience for that matter: a lot of it is about putting qualifications down on a resume. Seriously, anyone driven enough can teach themselves or find ways to learn about a subject or topic without paying tons of money for the education. . .in regards to a liberal arts, creative or artistic direction.

Maybe the undergrad degree isn't so bad, since it really provides a fast track to learning a lot of stuff and for honing the mind for thinking without the distractions of the real world. A grad degree and non-accredited classes, however, in my opinion, can pretty much suck away money and time that could be better used making money or focusing attention on a particular project, which can then be sold as a product at some later date. For those who need to put something on a resume or have certain experience to achieve a certain goal, grad school may just be a good option.

Let's move away from my disclaimer that could turn into a long long tangent, though.

Apparently, as I gathered from the seminar about getting a literary agent that I attended with the wife a few weeks ago, memoirs are the latest raging trend for reading material. Chick lit was the trend a few years ago. The memoir trend worries me at a gut level.

Some introspection and light research has led me to believe that the trend causes me a bit of anxiety for two reasons: (1) As an aspiring novelist, I fear my market share will be stolen away from me and (2) a career memoirist strikes me as something of an inauthentic vocation. I won't dignify the first reaction with any further attention, since it comes from the gut and probably doesn't have much grounding in reality.

The authenticity angle intrigues me, though, especially since many people, including Plato, have made remarks about fiction being a lie, which could thus lead to an accusation of inauthenticity. Why do I feel comfortable with writing fiction but see memoir as something that could spawn insincerity?

In full disclosure and at the risk of sparking the wrath of the wife, I don't have an issue with memoirs, in themselves, especially if they have a novel angle, have the ability to edify a reader (how aristocratic is that?) and, to some degree, the writing of the memoir is incidental to the experience that provides the content and inspiration. It's the mass production then commodification of human experience, similar to reality TV (and explore in the novel that I'm writing), for the entertainment of an audience that gets me in the craw.

Memoirs written after an out of the ordinary experience or even everyday life with a novel spin on it that would have happened anyway strikes me as a noble thing to do. It could affect someone else to look at the world differently and have a real connection. As I've heard writers talk about how they have their memoir and plan on writing more in a way that novelists talk about their book and wanting to get it published that punches me in the metaphorical gut.

To me, discussing it this way gives me the impression that someone plans on writing another memoir afterward, another one after that and another one then one more and so on and son. Addressing the memoir in this way makes me thinking of someone thinking to themselves, "OK, I've marketed that memoir to all hell, and I've made a good deal of money off of it. . .now what kind of interesting experience can I have now to provide the content for my next memoir, which an audience would want to read and will buy! What kind of experience will I have to have?"

Does a memoirist even need to write another one once they've become a celebrity from it? Why not hang out with Brad and Angelina? Or how about party it up with Brittany and Lindsay? Hell, the memoirist could probably just do a reality TV show to ween other memoirists, "America's Next Memoirist!" Or how about star in an effects-laden horror or science fiction movie? Guest star all over the TV. Record an album that your producer could perfect until the memoirist isn't even really there, just their face. Do a whole bunch of advertisements on TV. . ..

Would the memoirist even need good looks or an amiable personality? That could even add to the mystery of the memoirist's celebrity status. How could such a cantankerous ass get all this attention? Everyone's paying attention to the windbag, though, so I better keep an eye on them to see what they're doing next, so I can talk about it at the water cooler.

Um. . .yeah, I lost track of my thoughts there, got carried away with the limits of absurdity there. Let's leave it at that, though. Maybe someday I'll return to it with some real thoughts (isn't writing a blog with the intention of attracting attention just as bad as being a career memoirist?). . .the idea of comparing memoir to fiction sounds like an interesting challenge. Maybe I'll have to take it up someday.

No comments: