READING MEMOIRS

Sometimes an author’s personal story grabs the reader and immediately takes her along on an unstoppable ride. We all love memoirs like that.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading several memoirs with the help of Mary Karr’s the Art of Memoir. She’s the author of Liars’Club, Lit and others so gripping a reader could not put the books down.

Karr tells us “Great memoirs sound like distinct persons and also cover a broad range of feelings.” Currently I’m reading her chapter on voice. The voice of a memoir writer must confess where he or she is morally adrift or worse, across a line into the country of wrongdoing.

I’ve already commented briefly in past posts about Diane Rehm’s memoir On My Own. Below are the others I’ve been reading with comment. And here is a disclaimer. Perhaps this is too many memoirs at once. I feel a bit like my head is always dipping below the surface of these others’ stories; I’m gurgling underwater.

Cork Dork
Author: Bianca Bosker
Publisher: Penguin Books 2017
Genre: Memoir
Paperback Edition: 307 pages
Source: Personal copy.

Cork Dork jumped off the bookstore shelf into my arms. What a title! How fun I thought to read about wine and becoming a sommelier. What was that journey like? Love to read about learning? Or so I thought.

And Bosker’s voice has the bizazz of a magazine writer. She can introduce the reader to an upscale wine freak and render that person so absurd the page holds one’s interest. Her honesty about her wine tasting keeps the pages turning. One thing the reader learns is that evaluating wines objectively may not be possible. As the information drones on, some of the romance associated with wines drifts away ––especially for those of us who drink under $20 bottles and thing we’ll get something great at $25 or $35 dollars.

The Return
Author: Hisham Matar
Publisher: Random House 2016
Genre: Memoir
Hardcover Edition: 239 pages
Source: Library copy

This winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize was near the top of my library list. It became available before some other non-fiction I had requested; perhaps that was a clue that the reading is not easy. This reader cannot fault Matar’s voice though it is restrained and concerned with politics and violence he almost seems to relish. His homeland is Libya. His father, a prominent critic of the Qaddafi regime, was kidnapped when he was 19. But the personal voice is not as strong as the restrained, professional voice. He describes the Libyan landscape with loving detail and nostalgia. The rhythmic and musical quality of his prose is indeed welcoming to read. The time-line of his tale is not linear. As is so popular in recently published books, the story constantly moves about in chronology and in place. If a reader is less familiar with the world events in a certain part of the world and with the culture, this adds to difficulty in easily understanding the effect of events, personal and global.

Any recommendation of these memoirs from me is guarded.
If your thirst for wine is insatiable?
If you are deeply interested in Libya: politics and people in recent times?
Or, if you are looking to read more in this genre?
Either of these may satisfy.

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