Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Question of the Day: Memoirs

I'm currently reading a memoir - title and cover image to follow in a future post if I really like it - and my question of the day is - how do people write about their childhoods so vividly? Memoir writers always tell of their childhoods in great description - and I wonder how the hell they do it. I can't remember jack about my childhood. I can sum it up in like ten bullet points:

-Our Lady of Hope grammar school - blech
-summers at the beach club, sun surf, sandcastles, babysitting, doo-wop bands
-games & playing with Kimble, Kelly, Chris, Jamie, Jackie, Heather, Brian, Kenny, Larry, Matt
-vacations to Disney World & Williamsburg at the Kingsmill
-books books and more books. summer reading at the Queens Public Library - games to "find the queen"
-Girl scout camp. Fun but tiring
-Watching corny programming like the Dukes of Hazzard, Facts of Life, Different Strokes
-sleepovers at Kel's, Bianca's Emily's - I haven't thought of some of these people for years
-barbecues on the porch with the fam in the summer
-outings with Mom and Dad, plays, fishing trips, dinners, blah blah blah

See? That's pretty much it. Not that it wasn't great or anything, its just that I don't remember much more than that. So how do these writers do it? do they ask their parents. That's fine and dandy, but there's only so much your parents remember too. I've asked my parents various questions that are met with shrugs.

What do you mean you don't know what time I was born?

Shrug. I don't know. It was in the morning sometime.

Anyhow - if anyone has any insight to share on this, please feel free to post a comment.


Blogger Brian Bishop said...

My opinion is: there's no way you were born ni the morning.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Chuck Lowry said...

Well, you could have been born in the morning. That way you could have started your journal on the commute from the delivery room to the nursery.

3:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do have an answer for this. It's complicated, so it's in several parts.

1. People who write memoirs don't necessarily remember all of their childhood vividly, they just remember certain events vividly. I, for instance, have an absolutely terrible memory for dates, and a lot of the chronology of "Fishes"-- not the events themselves, but the order in which they occurred-- is pure guesswork. However, what I do remember, I remember in bright, shiny detail.

2. Perhaps the people who do have vivid memories of at least a book's worth of events are the ones most likely to write memoirs.

3. However, you probably remember more than you think. If you took one incident you remembered and starting writing about it, trying to recall the smell, the sounds, the textures, the feelings, taking your view of the location and mentally rotaing it so you can see more of the setting-- you'll probably find that you remember a lot.

What games did you play with your friends? Were you ever punished unfairly? What was lunchtime like? Did you get a birthday present that you really loved or really disappointed you?

Start with the emotionally loaded memories, happy or sad, because those are, well, memorable. You may be surprised.

Rachel Manija Brown

Rachel Manija Brown

8:46 AM  
Anonymous kim said...

hey jenn,

have you started on any nonfiction memoir writing yet? we're all waiting...

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! » »

2:42 PM  

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