This is Ann Patchett in the afterward to Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face.
In the right hands, a memoir is the flecks of gold panned out of a great, muddy river. A memoir is those flecks melted down into a shapable liquid that can then be molded and hammered into a single bright band to be worn on a finger, something you could point to and say, “This? Oh, this is my life.” Everyone has a muddy river, but very few have the vision, patience, and talent to turn it into something so beautiful. This is why the writer matters, so that we can not only learn from her experience but find a way to shape our own. I’m not talking about shaping every life into a work of art. I’m talking about making our life into something we can understand, a portable object that has the weight and power of an entire terrain.
So there’s this great website called Wordle that makes wordclouds out of websites. Here’s mine:
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine “…are closing in on the exact procedures for creating false memories in individuals in a wide variety of circumstances”
Scary! But fascinating! Read more here.
Update: Of course this idea is already at play in popular culture — hello, Dollhouse! Check out this excellent blog post about why this series is and yet isn’t and yet is worth watching.
Back in December ’08 I visited an exhibition staged by the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. This is when all the ITP students showcase their work. My NYS (New York Sister), Amanda Bernsohn, is a student in the program. Just for background, the ITP website describes the course as “a living community of technologists, theorists, engineers, designers, and artists uniquely dedicated to pushing the boundaries of interactivity in the real and digital worlds.”
To which I can only say: Yay! Looking at all the exhibits was like walking around inside a bunch of intelligent, creative minds. Now, I’m not an overly technical person, so much of the programming part of what these people were doing was totally beyond me, but what I found so fascinating was that they were all making interesting connections. Taking a concept from one area of thought and applying it somewhere else. Twisting ideas around to get new, more interesting ideas. And, along the way, quite possibly coming up with products that will be part of our daily lives in the near future.
Take Amanda’s project for example: Urban Windchimes. It’s so awesome. Check out the website for more info, but the basic concept is that, in our urban environments, people don’t always want to listen to other people’s windchimes. With this invention, you can place a wind sensor on your window ledge or fire escape and pay the chimes through your computer. There’s the possibility of placing sensors all over the world — ever wanted to listen to the wind on Mount Fiji? Or in the Bahamas? How cool would that be?
Then there were a few projects that were dealing, in one way or another, with memory. And this got me thinking about the connection between memory and technology, and how the digital revolution means we might well remember things differently in the future. This, in turn, has some pretty interesting consequences for future memoirists.
By jove, I think I might have done it! Embedded a video! Huzzah!
This is Jim Levine, principal at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, talking at the Strand book store in New York, about what he’s looking for in a memoir. Those of you exclusively in the third category — the “exceptional writing” group — have the hardest sell, in my opinion, and the most work to do, because in that case, you are selling art, not ideas or experience. It can be done though — just look at Mary Karr.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Video care of GalleyCat, at Media Bistro.
David Carr Will Save Memoir! Or so says Leon Neyfakh at the New York Observer. Apparently Carr, author of a new book about his drug experiences, was so loathe to trust his drugged out memories that he reported on his own life, interviewed his friends and family, and even hired a private investigator. This makes him, in Neyfakh’s eyes, memoir’s “…white knight, galloping in to show how a personal story can be engrossing, shocking and true.”
This hilarious collection of Carr’s mashed potato analogies suggests otherwise, though.
Stuart Jeffries on the non-reading epidemic. Pithy.
There is a thing called reader’s block. It is not the same as writer’s block. In fact, reader’s block is a phenomenon partly explained as a reader’s all-too-understandable response to so many writers not having writer’s block.
My man Salman might just win the Booker prize again.
And, care of Booksquare, Jennifer Epstein, author of the Painter From Shanghai, on moving from writing books to blogging and blogs:
These short, sharp little sites and pieces can be vastly engaging and informative, and I’ve found several that I truly love. That said, they feel like the very antithesis of the way I write; tight deadlines, immediate readerships.
For New York type writing folk, Guernica magazine is looking for a managing editor and benefit director.