From Augustine's Confessions to Augusten Burroughs's Running with Scissors, from Julius Caesar to Ulysses S. Grant, from Mark Twain to David Sedaris, the art of memoir has had a fascinating life, and deserves its own biography. "As Yagoda says: 'Memoir has become the central form of the culture: not only the way stories are told, but the way arguments are put forth, products and properties marketed, ideas floated, acts justified, reputations constructed or salvaged. How did we come to this pass? The only way to answer that question is to go back a couple of thousand years and tell the story from the beginning,'" which is just what Yagoda does in this "excellent" history (The Washington Post).
What do Nene Leakes, Chelsey Sullenberg (aka "Sully"), Jodie Sweetin, Michael Phelps's mother, Mary Jo Buttafuoco, Chad Ochocinco, Sarah Palin, Cheeta the Chimp and Screech from SAVED BY THE BELL have in common? They each became bestselling authors in 2009, with the release of their memoirs. But none of their books can match the range and depth of Ben Yagoda's fascinating history of the memoir, which traces the roots of this solipsistic branch of literature back to Julius Caesar and St. Augustine. Yagoda describes how the Western form of the memoir divided into two main types: remembrances by great men, like Benjamin Franklin and Ulysses S. Grant, or narratives written by virtually anonymous slaves and Native Americans. As he takes us through the 20th century and the development of numerous subgenres, such as celebrity memoirs, fake memoirs, and black memoirs, Yagoda pauses periodically for intriguing digressions on the nature of truth and the inherent fallibility of memory.
- Literary Criticism, Biography + Autobiography
- Semiotics + Theory, Literary
- October 5, 2010
- October 5, 2010
- Ben Yagoda