I read something interesting somewhere the other day and the simple, arresting, argument was this:  “The memoir-as-a-book as we know it is dead.”


Now that we live in the world of the instantly mundane with Twitter and Facebook and FriendFeed ruling our lives — and blogging ruining our days — nothing in a solitary life goes unscathed or unrecorded.

Have we no secrets?  Have we no need for private confession?  Have we no shame!

The simplest thought, the most complex theory, the wholly unimaginable whim are all now virtually published in our instant-on culture of media and technology.

We no longer hold in our contempt.  We sloppily spew the most intimate notions about ourselves all over the internet and we feel special after because “we shared” and “we told” and we may have even “showed.”

The noise of us is becoming so overwhelmingly unbearable that we risk becoming wholly inconsequential in the wolfpack of the web.

Why bother writing a memoir while you can Tweet away all the important, private, touchstones of your life in the public square?

We’re giving up our literary lifeblood in Live Body Streaming and rendering all our propagated memes memeingless for a memoir.

11 Comments

  1. The thing is that you can immediately differentiate between a twitter stream of events as they happen and the carefully crafted words of a memoir. If I haven’t learned anything else from David Sedaris, that is it. 🙂

  2. I think the argument, Gordon, is that when you’re dealing with an ordinary author who does something significant and writes a memoir — all the details of that life or experience or insight will have already been pre-published in real time. Since a memoir is solely about the events of a remembered life, I can see how the current social networking trend breaks the monetary meme of paying someone to re-write what they’ve already written and given away for free.

  3. The thing is, though, that I don’t think that memoirs are as much about the events themselves as they are how the events are told in a brilliant or dull manner. For example, David Sedaris tells this story about people thinking he was a French thief on the subway. It could easily be encapsulated in a twitter update but he told the story in a fantastic way. 🙂

        1. I just tweeted this :

          “Man plans, G-d laughs” is so true. Last night, despite all of our plans, my wife delivered early via emergency c-section. Healthy baby boy!”

          Dictionary.com says that an anecdote is “a short account of a particular incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical. ”

          My tweet fits all of those! 🙂 It’s an exception rather than the rule but it can happen!

          (Also some folk now will send 3 tweets with one story — beats the point but what can you do?)

          1. In the definitions of “anecdote” that I’ve seen on m-w.com and the OED both use the word “narrative” — as part of the idea — a redaction of a piece of literature. Are the plain facts of a life a narrative? Or is a narrative, in the strictest anecdotal sense, necessarily a part of a greater, pre-existing, literary effort?