I write memoirs in order to bring religious seekers closer to God and to gratify believers who wish to be re-enthused.
Most readers of my recent memoir are Christians, but some are not. The same applies to readers of my blog posts. Some are; some are not.
My point is that, irrespective of the religious stance of readers, I write from the perspective of a believing Christian who happens to be a Lutheran by denomination.
A memoir is a variety of writing that differs from, but is a sub-category under, autobiography. At a higher level, each is non-fiction.
Autobiography is an organized, factual, narrative recounting of the events that comprise the writer’s life, usually presented in order as they occurred. On the other hand, while a memoir also draws from the writer’s life, the word memoir has been traced back to a Persian term for “that about which we ponder.”
That Persian word is mermer.
The person who writes a memoir does relate factual events, indeed, but he or she devotes attention not so much to the events themselves or to the order in which they occurred, but to the ponderings which arise from the events.
The ponderings may be happy or sad. The pondering reveal the book’s theme.
The reader of memoirs experiences something that is more subtle and more nuanced than the reader of autobiography. Memoirs are closer to poetry than they are to general non-fiction. The reader of a memoir is engaged with the writer’s mind, imaginings, and soul.
During past centuries, published memoirs generally were written by persons of high achievement, or who had encountered some event of great significance as viewed by their entire culture. Near the end of the last century, and into our own, with self-publishing available, memoirs have exploded as a variety of published writing.
(My Amazon search just now, using the single word memoirs, pulled up over 419,000 titles…of course, my search was not nuanced, but that’s a lot of books that have some relationship with memoirs!)
What is lamentable in our age of social media me-me-me-ism is that many persons who have lived their lives are stirred to write and to publish their memoir, whether of general interest or not.
As a man who has written one memoir (and who is writing another), I am aware that I might be chided for deciding on my own authority that it is important to the world that I ponder in print on the truths of my life. Who am I, after all?
All I can say is that, manifestly, some memoirs rise above the ordinary into the significant. In that case, speaking as one who writes anyway, writing a memoir is worth a try.
I am hungry to read memoirs. What I want to gain from any memoir I read is awareness of how this other writer has done the memoirist’s job.
I ask for your suggestions. What should I read?
As I read memoirs, especially I like to encounter--
I am eager for suggestions from you regarding memoirs you recommend, among any of these types—books which have moved you, books that are significant. Please make any suggestions you have, and give me a sentence about them.
Particularly, coming from those of you who are Christian readers, I’m interested to read the “almost theres.”
In my language, an “almost there” is a memoir written by a serious-minded, often very skilled writer, who is pondering on the page, usually with a tone of anxiety, about the nature of his or her life. There may be an illness, or a relationship problem, or something else that produces a sense of wretchedness or emptiness of the writer’s soul.
A Christian reader of such a memoir may have a sensation that the writer suffers from lack of hope. That reader, as a Christian, has hope, which is his or her possession, due to redemption provided by God through Jesus Christ. See, for example, 1 Peter 3:15, which speaks of that same hope.
When I finish reading an “almost there”—I finished reading one several nights ago—I am filled with sadness. Having spent hours and hours with the writer of this particular book, a woman, it seems unlikely to me that she will find her way to the hope that is in me.
Of course, anything can happen for the Lord’s glory, and Channa and I ourselves came late in life to Jesus Christ. To those who knew us beforehand, perhaps our progress would have been judged unlikely, too.
This woman’s memoir has sold many copies. Clearly, her situation and the way she ponders the events and the sensations of her life, her marriage, her career and that of her husband, her child’s life--these are very life-like.
These things are pondered by her as being the way things are, for her; people who resonate with her view of the way things are have bought her book and enjoyed it.
But I hope that another memoir might come from this woman, whose craft of writing I admire. I would welcome a new memoir in which she reveals that she is not almost there, but there.
And still pondering….
So, my friends, what should I read?