Memoirizing Life

In Lost Edens, author Jamie Patterson struggles to save her marriage which may or may not be already over. Keeping her attempts a secret from her family, she attempts to mold herself into the wife her husband wants her to be.

As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson on book club day, October 27 at From Left to Write.

One of the first memoirs I read by choice, rather than as part of a literature or history course in college, was Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. 

It was some ten years or so ago, but there are still scenes and passages and moments that I clearly recall; the details of Frank McCourt's dire poverty as a child in Ireland during the early part of the century were  grim and sobering.  I remember silently thanking my great-grandparents for immigrating from Ireland at the turn of the century as I turned the pages.

After Angela's Ashes, the seldom-heard-from-before genre of memoirs exploded; suddenly, it seemed, everywhere you turned, there were best selling books filled with personal narratives, life histories, and stories of childhoods filled with horrors beyond comprehension.

Some were good; some not so much.  But one thing many of those early memoirs had in common was an author who was older, an author who may have outlived some of the very people featured in their memoir.

I still read memoirs regularly; who doesn't love a good underdog story or conversion story or pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps story?  What I have noticed, however, is that many of the memoirs I've read in the past few years are authored by people my age.

My age, or younger.

While my kids might argue otherwise, I'm not that old.

So reading Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson, a deeply personal narrative about the implosion of her marriage during her twenties, made me wonder about the idea of The Memoir itself.

It made me wonder:

How soon is too soon? 

There is something about a memoir penned late in life by an author who has the perspective that can only be gained with time and distance.  Who, after struggling through life's challenges, emerged, phoenix-like, and lived.

And lived well.

It's a curious thing to me, these memoirs written about short slices of a life while that life is still playing out, is still an unfinished work in progress.  And then there is the delicate issue of the privacy of those whose lives intersected yours; how does one write with honesty about your experience without infringing upon the privacy of others?

It's a puzzle to me.

Would you ever consider writing a memoir, and if so, when?