Memoirs, The Fixing of Memory

J.D. Lasica points to Roy Peter Clark’s suggestions on how to fix the memoir genre.

When you pick up a memoir, you deserve to know what you’re reading. You may already think you know – a work of solid non-fiction – but you may be wrong. Along with the non-fiction, you may be getting doses of fiction – or gobs. Some authors and publishers are upfront about this. Others prefer to veil their methods, riding the coattails of writers who adhere to stricter standards.

Clark’s emphasis on the words “stricter standards” is yet another note on how journalists and novelists differ on what is permissible in a “memoir.” Rick Moody asked the most salient question, though: why didn’t someone (and he pointedly absolves Frey on this score) decide to call the book a novel? And why were so many column inches devoted to attacking Frey when journalists are so quiet on their own shortcomings these days?

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