Saturday, April 3, 2021

Seven autobiographies & memoirs that remind us of the messiness of memory

Whitney Otto's novels include the New York Times bestseller How to Make an American Quilt, which was later made into a movie of the same name, and Eight Girls Taking Pictures. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and in several anthologies.

Otto's new book is Art for the Ladylike: An Autobiography through Other Lives.

At Lit Hub she tagged seven autobiographies and memoirs in which "love, experience, ideas, and observations ignore the limitations of the linear story, building a more far more complex, complete narrative." One title on the list:
Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

Can a concept be a literary structure? Can a haunted house illustrate an abusive relationship? Can queer theory and various academic ideas be a place where someone can live? Can anyone actually live in a dream house? Doesn’t the fact of it being a dream make it ultimately uninhabitable, no matter how great the longing? And is there a fine line between dream and nightmare and how is it crossed it without even realizing it? You and I are points of view used by the narrator as much as pleasure and betrayal find themselves bound together in the dream house. Every chapter begins with “Dream House.” “Dream House as Epiphany.” “Dream House as Erotica.” “Dream House as Shipwreck.” “Dream House as I Love Lucy.” “Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure” records a moment between the narrator and her girlfriend, then offers the reader a series of page numbers that add to and drive the entire incident. I love this brilliant memoir. I love it. I love that it is as much about this one terrible love affair gone wrong as it is about the narrator. I love the repetition and prismatic quality of the dream house, invoked over and over, each meaning fresh and dazzling.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue