For most of my life, I’ve been a reader of popular fiction. I’m not sure what it says about me that my bestest, most longstanding literary pals are murderers and the flawed detectives who ensnare them along with an assortment of other miscreants and sociopaths, but I do enjoy the genre. Of late however, I’ve been all over memoirs. I’m guessing that might have something to do with the very tale I tell here–I get it now, I get that some people have to tell a story.
My own hardly warrants a full-length volume, but even reading the phrase I just wrote diminishes the purpose and import of the memoir genre. I used to think memoirs were written by all-about-me (OK. . .) egomaniacs believing themselves THE MOST FASCINATING stars in the galaxy. Not necessarily. Sometimes you just need to write things down to frame your thinking or concretize your views. Sometimes writing things down provides history and context. Everyone has a story–some are more compelling that others; this is mine, maybe not so compelling, yet here you are. If you’d said to me a year ago that I’d write a blog, I’d have said, “What? Why?” That ANYONE would read the blog I’m (not) writing? BWAAAAAHAHA. But here you are, riding tandem with me down the superhighway of the toughest year of my life. Right now, I need to write and I’m really into others’ stories told in the first person.
I’ve long raved about Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, she who introduced me to the world of blogging. I spent last weekend at my dear, sweet friend Ann’s house. The paragraph above made me laugh hard because 1) it was 5:30 AM and I’d not gotten enough sleep, and 2) because Jenny Lawson? SHE GETS ME. I judge. And I live in a mild state of terror that I’ve sent a work email with some grammatical error to a bunch of speech pathologists lying in wait to point it out. See, at work, unlike here, I write like a professional–all complete sentences and stuff and I totally have to censor myself because not everyone thinks I’m as funny as I think I am. But you end a sentence with a preposition and they’ll come at ya like a pack of rabid dogs, so you have to call yourself out first. Like last Friday when I had the wrong date (on which, yes, I called myself out) on my Powerpoint presentation, but a grammar gaffe would be way worse because emails are forever. OK, back on track. . . Last weekend. I reread the briefest of book chapters in Furiously Happy about not eating kale or quinoa or human feet, and I lost my damn mind. I also needed ibuprofen for my face because I laughed so hard my head and face hurt. I can never resist (internally) the “does your face hurt, ’cause it’s killing me?” joke my dad told me in middle school anytime someone says, “my face hurts” because sometimes my humor is at the level an adolescent boy instead of a 48-year-old woman with a knack for veering from the topic sentence. Ahem.
I couldn’t possibly do justice to these two pages via a retell, and I’m also leery about being sued since that was pointed out to me with the song lyrics for blog post titles thing but seriously, read this book and don’t skip the footnotes (ba-dum-bum). I knew this book would be perfect and it is. It’s also at turns, a painful read. But it’s perfect in its pain and tragedy and hilarity and triumph. I made it about 34 seconds into my dramatic reading to Ann before my speech became unintelligible. Tears ran down my face for at least ten minutes so hard was my laughter and her laughter at mine and then our together laughter and then mine at six-seven minute intervals for a couple hours. My husband thinks I have a girl crush. I could do worse.
Before that I read Where I Belong by Alan Doyle. I’m a new girl in the Alan Doyle fan club, about twenty years late to the party, having only discovered his music ahead of the concert I attended (did you hear??) in Toronto last month. I love him–it was love at first listen or read. His memoir tells the tale of growing up in Newfoundland and how that shaped his life, his beliefs, his music. I read his book and now very much hope that he’s as cool and decent a guy as he seems on stage and in his words. My ten-year-old has jumped in with both feet as a fan (because saying jumping in “balls deep” feels like a slightly inappropriate reference from a mother about her child, and I am nothing if not a model of parental dignity and grace), and oh, how I love when my children do something or act in a way that I know comes from me! Neither kid looks one molecule like their mom, but it’s through my music that I claim my little one. And now that we’re pretend moving to Canada, Where I Belong is educational, really it’s research for our new home. My little one has already whole-heartedly jumped on (see? parental restraint) the Blue Jays baseball organization bandwagon. My friend Christine said to me at work last week, “One day we’ll come in, your Canadian flags will be gone and you just won’t be here, and we’ll all be like, ‘yeah, we should have taken you more seriously when you said you were moving.'” Yep. My husband, son and I are going to see Alan Doyle & the Beautiful Gypsies in Chicago in January, and my husband is all scared like I’m gonna want to meet him and ask him to sign my book. And he’ll have to be there beside me, in horrified silence, while I try to meet and thank someone famous. Um, yeah. Sometimes I think my husband really isn’t paying attention.
I read Has Anyone Seen My Pants? just before Alan Doyle’s book. It’s Sarah Colonna’s second book, and I just love that it was not a work of fiction, yet has the happy ending. Love wins–yay, Sarah! I miss her on Chelsea Lately. She’s very funny, I think especially on Twitter, when I read some observation she makes about some a-hole in whichever airport or store or restaurant she’s in, and I often think, “YES! I would have said the same thing.” Because I fancy myself some type of comedian too, but am always a day late and a dollar short. But I think you can see now why I write here because I too need an audience. I don’t. I do? I do. Sometimes I do say things I know are funny, and my timing is usually pretty good. People laugh when I say funny stuff, that’s how I know I am funny sometimes, but my audience is small and comprised mostly of people I already know so they’re loyal and kind to me. Probably because they know I’m fragile and dancing on the edge. Hey! Wait a minute. Maybe you’re laughing at me, but not in that good kind of comedic laughing at me way. Oooh, I need to reevaluate here. . . Crap.
I reread Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer recently. Krakauer’s memoir was the basis for the movie Everest. The movie wasn’t life-changing–I mean, I still cried at the end and all because it was the story of a failed Everest summit attempt. People died. People nearly died. People were disfigured and disabled. The book was so much better than the film, which I believe almost always to be the case. I have had a focused interest in Mount Everest since having read this book when my big kid was months old. My big kid and two of his friends chose Everest for his birthday party outing, and after drying the tears we weren’t supposed to see, made a pact never to make a summit attempt. It was actually a cool conversation to be party to. My focused interest comes from and stays in the Midwest–I do NOT possess that level thrill-seeker gene. My interests tend to be activities not typically tied to peril and/or death. See, that’s why I read about Mount Everest.
Next up on my nightstand is Running With Scissors, which doesn’t sound like it’s going to be funny at all, and maybe more heartbreaking because the synopsis reads a bit chaotic. My life’s work has been with children, many coming from extremely chaotic homes, so it feels like it might be a little too close. I’ll let you know. And after that is not a memoir, but a book about organizing oneself that came highly recommended by my friend Tracy. I can barely get myself to read a book about organization, let alone accomplish some level of organization, so hang on. It could be awhile before I report back on that one.
I think the appeal of a memoir is that often, authors write how they talk. You feel like you’re reading a conversation, and you feel closer to the author, like you can imagine maybe being in that conversation with him or her. This appeals greatly to me. One of the highest compliments I’ve received about my writing is just that–that it sounds like a conversation, that people can hear me through my words. The working title for Wendy’s memoir is Really I’m the Jerk Here. And it comes from referring to myself in the third person here because only a narcissist jerk type would refer herself by name. Who does that? No. I threw out the phrase with Ann last Sunday morning as I was telling my friend some other story about my mundane (and sometimes awesome) life and how my husband deserves some type of interstellar-level league award for dealing with me. I’ve written before that I rarely react to things appropriately, initially anyway; I’m either irate or nonplussed when I should absolutely be the opposite. When others don’t react in kind, then I react to that. It’s very confusing for them, but we laughed because that is just me. It’s not a bad title really. It was pointed out to me that perhaps the title of my memoir is already Greater Than Gravity, because hello??? I sure didn’t see that one coming. Sometimes what’s right in front of you is the hardest thing to see.