February 13, 2008
The Clock Still Seems to Tick
Today, courtesy of Very Short List, I learned of the book Not Quite What I Was Expecting: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Obscure and Famous. The book collects "ADD autobiographies" submitted to Smith Magazine.
Memoir as a literary form is never uncontroversial; even celebrated Christian memoirist and Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller declared the genre dead--adding wryly that its death means that it still has ten good years left in Christian publishing. Memoir as a genre walks a fine line between stories that transcend the memoirist and edify a broader audience, on the one hand, and stories that act as a release valve for the memoirist's emotional reserves. To say yes as a publisher to the one is to become vulnerable to the other.
I was accosted once at a writers conference by a lovely little old lady who ecstatically recounted a tale of mild woe to me, ending on the happy note of a meagerly miraculous, apparently divine intervention that busted all the dust of her trying experience. I asked her what central idea her story would offer a reading audience, to which she responded, "That God is good." Now, I'm not denying that "God is good" is not a conclusion easily reached by everyone, and a good memoir may reach such a simple conclusion and leave the reader in awe of its profundity. But in the case of the proposal in front of me, the payoff was not worth the story.
With that in mind, I want to thank Smith for giving writers a place to lay their tales of woe to rest, and for enforcing the six-word limit as a writing discipline. As their archives prove, six words can tell a pretty transcendent story.
I'd also invite you, all our Strangely Dim friends, to take a stab at posting your own six-word memoir here. No vulgarities, please. Let me get you started:
"What was I thinking? Now what?"