Let me be the last—the absolute dead last—to point out that we're in the midst of a memoir craze. My favorite form of procrastination used to be computer solitaire, but now I prefer to chat on the phone with my writing friends and discuss the ongoing boom in autobiographical literature. We speculate like housing developers prognosticating on the real estate market. Will the bubble pop? Will prices continue to rise? Will market trends ever again veer toward literary fiction?
Last year a total of 172,000 books were published in the United States. Although that number reflects a 10 percent decrease from the previous year, it's easy to see how any one book could get lost in the shuffle—especially if it's one among the many memoirs being published every season. With the idea that there's strength in numbers, four memoirists who published books earlier this year have joined forces to promote their titles, developing a community of like-minded authors—and fostering emerging writers—along the way.
The release of three anthologies of creative nonfiction (or literary nonfiction or narrative nonfiction or whatever you choose to call it) proves that while difficult to label, there’s little challenge finding representative work for the so-called fourth genre.
Citizen journalists, often blogging in real time, have forced an expansion of creative nonfiction by influencing public opinion on important issues such as the presidential campaign.
Getting there may be half the fun, but for Rolf Potts, author of Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, the art of traveling—and travel writing—raises more important questions than how to go from point A to point B.
My confusion came from a curious warning. Awash in a sea of writers and would-be writers in a drab-walled meeting room at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference a few years ago in Vancouver, B.C., I was listening to author Dinty W. Moore extol the virtues of creative nonfiction writing when suddenly he straightened his stout body and leaned across the podium. "Look out," he cautioned, his tone dire, "the journalists are coming!"
Appearing in someone else’s memoir is like appearing in someone else’s dream. Your role is scripted according to the vagaries of the author’s memory and subjected to the Rorschach test of the heart. This utter lack of editorial control is the second thought I have on learning, in the pages of the New York Times Book Review, that the son of my late ex-husband has published a memoir of his father, the poet William Matthews.
Two years after publishing a brutal, unflinching account of his drug addiction, James Frey is showing signs of becoming a kinder, gentler writer in his second memoir, My Friend Leonard.
At no time on my book tour did I jump up and down, wave my fists, and scream, “It’s a novel! That means fiction!” At least I don’t think I did. It’s hard to be sure, because, in my head, I had that tantrum about three times daily as I traveled from town to town in southern Michigan, reading, signing books, and attending the Ann Arbor Book Festival. You see, my novel, Flight, was set in that region, where I had lived during my high school and college years.
The woman Laura Albert enlisted to publicly impersonate JT LeRoy, the fictional author created by Albert whose non-identity was exposed in 2005, will publish her own account of the hoax, the New York Post reported today. Twenty-seven-year-old Savannah Knoop, the half sister of Albert's former partner Geoffrey Knoop, has written Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy, her memoir of socializing with celebrities while posing, complete with sunglasses and blond wig, as the author of Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, works purportedly based on the author's experiences as a twelve-year-old homeless, abused, and drug-addicted son of a prostitute. Seven Stories Press will publish Knoop's book in October.