Saturday, January 5, 2013

Five top memoirs

Calvin Trillin's books include Deciding the Next Decider, A Heckuva Job, Obliviously on He Sails, About Alice, and Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin.

One of his favorite memoirs, as told to Sophie Roell at The Browser:
The Liars’ Club
by Mary Karr

So your first pick is The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. Why did you choose that to start with?

It’s one of my favourite memoirs. I think she manages to capture the city that she lived in, and its surroundings, beautifully – you can almost smell the oil refineries. I don’t believe she names the city, but it’s in that east Texas, Gulf Coast area where there are a lot of people who work on the rigs. So she captures that, and I felt it was an honest book. I give people a little leeway on memoirs. On regular non-fiction, I have orthodox views (or somewhere between Orthodox and Hasidic probably) – but when it comes to memoirs, I don’t really expect that the sentence that is being quoted from when the person was four years old, you can go to the bank with, but I feel it is their story. And I found hers essentially believable.

One of the reviews of Mary Karr’s book claimed it was the book that really kicked off the current vogue in memoirs

I’m not sure that’s true. There’s a book by one of the Mitford sisters, Jessica, called Hons and Rebels. That was written in the 1950s – so it’s a form that’s existed for a long time. What may be different about a lot of the recent memoirs is the writers are not necessarily well known. Mary Karr is a poet and poets in the United States, you don’t even have to say they are not well known because there aren’t any well-known poets. So I think that’s one difference between a memoir and an autobiography – the person doesn’t have to be a household name to write a memoir. Maybe Mary Karr’s book started that – the idea of somebody just having an interesting story.
Read about the other memoirs Trillin tagged at The Browser.

The Liars’ Club is one of Rebecca Ford's favorite five non-fiction books.

--Marshal Zeringue