The Art of the Moment Memoir

Image: exploding firecrackers” Firecracker Freeze Frame” by rjsteih is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Today’s post is excerpted from We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class by Beth Kephart( @BethKephart ).

There are many ways to think about memoir, countless categories, classifications, taxonomies. Family dysfunction memoirs. Medical memoirs. Trauma memoirs. Food memoirs. Nature memoirs. Coming-of-age memoirs.

Here got a few others.

The Brand Memoir: the specify predates the storey

Think of Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones& Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Or Shoe Dog: A Memoir of the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight.

Or Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina.

Each author was famous for something else before they entered the realm of bestsellerdom.

The Headline Memoir: the book can be summarized with a single sexy convict

“A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetized, complicated mother and the cooling consequences thereof her complicity, ” pretty much parts up Adrienne Brodeur’s Wild Game.

And even though Tara Westover’s Educated is a very long book, it is a volume readily contained by this single decision: “A coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: financial perspectives to appreciate one’s life through brand-new looks, and the will to change it.”

Likewise, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance was promoted with these statements: “A probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own floor of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town.”

Headline stuff. Movie plot stuff. All right there at a glance.

The Journey Memoir: the author sets out on an actual adventure

Along the mode, the author might also take a journey into herself. My favorite of these is Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family, which mails the author back to his childhood home of Ceylon so that he might learn of the family that mold him.

Mary Morris’s Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone also fits neatly into this bucket–a book that takes Morris through Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala so that she might begin “to overcome the struggles that have nursed her back. By crossing new borders, she learns to set territories for herself as a woman.”

The Reflection Memoir: to deepen one’s understanding of the greater world and the private self

I think of Anna Badkhen living near the Senegalese port of Joal to steer “a time of unprecedented environmental, financial, and cultural upheaval with resilience, originality, and wonder.”

Also There Will Be No Miracles Here, where Casey Gerald offers the “testament of a boy and an entire generation who came of age as the world came apart–a generation sought for a new route to live.”

And of course, Between the World and Me, which hears Ta-Nehisi Coates engaged in work that swivels “from the biggest questions about American history and principles to the most intimate concerns of a papa for a son.”

The Art of the Moment Memoir

And then there is what I’ve come to think of as the Art of the Moment memoir–work in which the moments themselves( and the way they are arranged) are of the most important ones and intrigue.

I think of the quilt of remembers, conceptions, and moments place down by Jean-Dominique Bauby in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

I think of Bough Down, by Karen Green, whose small-minded verses and epitomes captivate the immediacy of remorse in the aftermath of a husband’s suicide.

I think of The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits, which chronicles, in non-chronological fashion, her daily life and thoughts.

I think of novelists who understand that our lives are lived instant by time, and that our prowes is what we spawn of the moments leading by.

Holding onto the moment

All columnists of memoir must eventually own capacities necessary to artfully render the moment. To pertain wonder, whodunit, or deep ascertaining to an instant in time. To explore the familiar or ponder the unfamiliar. To ask a question and hint written answers. To liberate curiosity, to recognize a cache, to keep one. The stray of subject-matter alternatives is inexhaustible, as Brian Dillon, in his work Essayism: On Chassis, Feeling, and Nonfiction, reminds us 😛 TAGEND

On the deaths among a moth, dishonour, the Hoover Dam and how to write; an stock-take of objectives on the author’s desk, and an chronicle of wearing sights, which he does not; what another was informed about himself the working day he came instinctive from his colt; of noses, of cannibals, of method; diverse definitions of the word lumber; countless vignettes, published over decades, in which the writer, or her luxurious stand-in, described her case of dislocation in the city, and did so blithely that no one approximated it was all true; a exposition on roasted animal; a heap of lingo …

How do we obstruct those minutes? How do we prop them in place until we are ready for them? How do we remain our gumptions on alert?

Seeing, hearing, smelling, savor, feeling, knowing is not just a flair or a propensity; it is a discipline. The implement of the commerce can be a diary or journal or notebook.

You might think of the notebook, as Lydia Davis does, as a kind of externalized mind. “My journal as my other imagination, what I sometimes know, what I once knew, ” she writes, in Essays: One. “I consult my other memory and I be understood that although I do not know a certain thing at present, I once knew it; there it is in my other mind.”

Or you might share Patti Smith’s experience, as a notebook being the dwelling to endless variations of the same sections. From M Train: “Then there are the scores of notebooks, their contents calling–confession, discovery, endless alterations of the same paragraphs–and batches of napkins scrawled with incomprehensible rants.”

Or maybe the diary you remain is home to an adamant I, in true-life Joan Didion fashion. From “On Keeping a Notebook” 😛 TAGEND

But our notebooks present us apart, for nonetheless dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the stubborn “I.” We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public uptake, a structural pride for binding together a series of elegant pensees; we are talking about something private, about parts of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and unreliable assemblage with definition only for its maker.

When I was a child I restrained a diary of sorts–blank bibles the sheets of which I waterlogged with watercolour, then wrote into the ripples the starts of lavender poems.

When I was a young lady I began diary-ing the words collected from the writers who had exercised them–Ben Fountain’s draggled and furze and logy; Patricia Hampl’s hieratic and vatic; Alan Bennett’s equerries and chivvied and glabrous; Annie Dillard’s apostatized and thigmotropic.

When I wasn’t well for a long time, I continued a diary thickened with excerpts from designers, decorators, makes, as if they could speak for me, my humor, my journey, and for that period of time, they did 😛 TAGEND

“When we improve, let us considered that we build forever.”( John Ruskin)

“We could speak of every project as if were an unfinished love affair: it is most beautiful before it ends.”( Aldo Rossi)

“Should we not try to find our own style? ”( Karl Friedrich Schinkel)

I have diaries that record the drawing of my narratives, and journals that started with the hope of making a story, with admonitions to myself, which were not heeded: “Not style, articulation. Not spokesperson, story. Not narrative, but an existential blare. What alive is. What losing is. Why the word that obstructs bleeding is desperate.”

What happened to that story? How did I lose the tail of my own sorrow?

And I have photos, I should say, because I think this is important, thousands of images, that stop my consider intact until I find my pen and my gazette and mantle in, pattern, write again, improve the words. A few videos that facilitate me move the movements of a moment. A few audio excerpts of required sound.

There are no diary conventions, but there is, now, specific suggestions: That our witnes, our hearing, our reek, our tasting, our feeling, our knowing, our prowess of our times will be sharper, truer, more alive when we have a journal of some kind nearby, a place that differentiates the recognize, the attitude, the moment.

We Are the Words by Beth KephartAmazon/ Bookshop

I’m looking or listening so that I might somehow record this, you might say to yourself, and because you have entrusted yourself with its own responsibility, because a pen or paper or iPhone Document or the iPad or a typewriter await you, you are naturally going to work harder at examining and hearing. You are going to extend your interrupt. You are going to ask yourself questions. You are going to watch those castles and wonder, really, what the word is for that light symphony of wings. You are going to enter into a moment so that are able to create it up to language and to fib when the time is finally right.

Note from Jane: If you experienced this affix, be sure to check out We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class by Beth Kephart.

Read more: janefriedman.com