Friday, April 14, 2017

On memoir

I've been reading a lot of memoir lately--in fact, for a while. I love it for its focus on some part of life, its recounting of true stories but through a particular filter, or by focusing on a particular theme or topic. Dani Shapiro's Devotion focuses on spirituality. Pat Conroy's My Losing Season is about teamwork and family and loss. Joan Didion's Blue Nights zeroes in on mortality. And of course I am oversimplifying; these books are about much more. But they don't try to cover every aspect of a life in one volume.

I'm currently reading Mark Doty's Heaven's Coast, which I discovered through an interview of Doty in Creative Nonfiction. I could say this book is about the loss of a lover; I could say it is about terminal illness, it is about AIDS, it is about survival. It is about the homes we make and the friends we make (and lose). It's about recovery, community, dogs, the ocean. Those are some of the topics it covers, but the story is more than that; the spell it casts is indescribable.

I suppose memoir is mostly a gateway for me. A gateway into lives I've never lived and worlds I've never seen--but also into recognition, the sense that some of what we feel and think about the world is shared by others.

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