Wednesday, 19 November 2008

'Misery Memoirs' and Mrs. Briscoe's lament

I suppose that I, too, could be sued. By 'Sam', "Where am I?" he could demand. "Am I an absent husband?" Or 'Beth' when she was younger. "You hated my piercings!" a scowl of contempt. "You made me take them out!" Or even 'Zach'. "What? The book's about me? But didn't you say that I was charming and good looking or clever?" You may have read in the papers that a London lawyer, Constance Briscoe, is being sued by her mother. Yes, her mother. For having written a memoir called "Ugly." The things that Connie wrote about mum and her step-dad are not true, claims Mrs. Briscoe senior. Well, well, well. Wot a surprise!

Now, of course, the papers are full of hugely smug articles by gloating journalists about how ghastly these misery memoirs are. How the public are now well and truly fed up with them and how it's so 'pornographic' to expose one's 'personal pain' on the written page. Pornographic? Hardly. I agree that many memoirs have to be fictionalised. It's illogical to consider that a child can remember in all graphic detail what happened to them at age four. James Frey even admitted that his story A Million Little Pieces was a work of fiction, thus setting in motion the considered opinion that all memoirs were lies.

The problem that we now have, however, is that everything published is genred (my word - I quite like it) meaning that it's no longer apposite to qualify a book as autobiography, biography, fiction, non-fiction - you get the picture. It has to be put into a new breed of genre, so that, unless it's written by a celebrity, a memoir is thus described as a 'tragic life story' or something akin to that. Can't people decide for themselves? And who's doing the qualifying?

Of course the publishers only have themselves to blame. Once they saw how successful readers' interest has been in life stories, they've insisted on churning out book after book after book, with little consideration as to how practically each and every publication resembles the last. How many more books can be published that purport to show the abuse that appears to be so prevalent in the western world? I suppose that I can be accused of hubris here. After all, isn't my book also included in Amazon's 'Tragic Life Stories'? Yuck.

1 comment: said...

Hullo, my daughter has just referred me to your blog. I,too, have a blog that I have only just embarked upon:
I have written 93000 words and have sent the first three chapters to various agents and publishers, but I suppose I am not a celebrity, and my story is factual with nothing added and probably a lot that I have put to the back of my mind, and so forgotten. Therefore, I decided that if I cannot reach the public one way, then I will try another, hence my blog. I do hope that you may look at it at some time.

My regards