"I believe I control the world with my mind," Augusten Burroughs writes in the title essay of his new collection, Magical Thinking: True Stories. And who’s to say he doesn’t? Having survived a tumultuous childhood and an early career as an advertising copywriter while struggling with alcoholism, Burroughs—now a bestselling author—has indeed controlled his world. Magical Thinking is his fourth book in as many years, taking its place alongside Sellevision, his satirical novel about cable television’s home shopping networks, and his memoirs, Running With Scissors and Dry.
What began for Robin Romm as an exercise in navigating the loss of her mother evolved into a memoir, The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks, published this month by Scribner. She recently spoke about transitioning from fiction to nonfiction, and back again, and the difficulty of releasing a memoir into the world.
In ten years, Tom Bissell went from being a directionless dropout to the acclaimed author of four books.
Sadly, recent revelations are forcing readers—confronted by a brand-new band of literary scallywags, hucksters, and hoaxers—to reconsider the veracity of the story as well as that of the storyteller.
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.