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November 28, 2011 | 3 Comments

To the host:

Do you have plans to write a memoir? I hope so!  
Doug Mitchell
Austin, TX


Minnesotans don't produce great memoirs, Doug. Hubert Humphrey's had some good stuff in it, mostly about his boyhood and his dad, a pharmacist in South Dakota who loved opera, but then the boy became ambitious and successful and success knocked the life out of the memoir. It went dead, boinggggg. Dylan's CHRONICLES was interesting but seemed oddly impersonal. Fitzgerald wrote some memoiristic essays, collected in THE CRACK-UP, that are impressive but fragmentary. New Yorkers do a better job of it. Cheever's JOURNALS is one of the great pieces of American prose writing ever. Just finished reading Harry Belafonte's memoir MY SONG, Doug, which is a terrific book, I think, very honest and probing, lots of memorable scenes, a classic story of a poor boy who becomes fabulously successful and then must deal with his demons, and one comes away from it with admiration for the writer's hard work assembling all the pieces and mostly avoiding self-aggrandizement. Mr. Belafonte moved in much grander circles than I, Hollywood, Las Vegas, European tours, in and out of various White Houses, and any memoir I wrote would not travel too far from Anoka, Minnesota, and the Sanctified Brethren and the streets of St. Paul. I can't write a memoir unless I feel I can do justice to all three and to the people who've passed through my life. I wish I could do them justice. Edward Hoagland wrote a great book, SEX AND THE RIVER STYX, in which, I think, he did some justice to his own life. If I thought I could write a book as good as his, I'd start work on it tomorrow. 


Do it, NOW.

Memoirs and Memories
truth in jest
may just trump these.

So as you wait,
don't hesitate
to savor fictions as
Pilgrims, A Wobegon Romance
and A Christmas Blizzard -
read them or try the audio books -
you'll find they fill the cockles and nooks,

You'll see daffodils with new eyes
and learn that
"Faye was a fool, but
sometimes fools have
good messages".
You'll see daffodils with new eyes,
and smell the yeast that makes
bread rise.

There's gore and steam
and many of life's passages,
there's more than it may seem,
and much to surmise.

There's truth in jest,
and even in the lies.
For in the end,
joy comes
to he who tries,
and she who cries.

Did anyone listen to the Keillor/Lithgow interview recently posted at this site? Keillor listens to this actor talk about the friendly relationships among movie people, or stage people, and points out that authors don't share the same mutual admiration society (my phrase). I think he says authors are "snippy," and that they're always wondering if the other has read their work and what they think of it. Whereas actors, Lithgow says, are good at acting, and will state that of course they have seen the other's work, and they love it.
So it seems to me that graduating from performance art (APHC) to, say, memoir-writing would be a real risk in terms of steadiness of self-esteem. And from a listener's point of view, there is nothing like time spent sharing during the specific time, with the whole audience, knowing that people at such-and-such a location are laughing right now, or singing along right now. That time is emotional stretching space; it centers the self, and binds people together across the air waves. We will all miss that. I confess I have not read GK's works in a long time. I have a hard enough time getting to know the people in my own life, let alone those writing about theirs. When I retire (yeah, RIGHT), I might try it. But I think I'd choose to read about people who don't already feel familiar. Sorry, GK! I think I know about your perspectives pretty well as is. Perspectives as are...

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