I am pondering who we are and want to be in memoir.
Maybe we have no choice. But writing takes time and revision and so, in fact, we always do.
Reading Joan Didion’s BLUE NIGHTS made me sad: for her daughter, for sure, but also for Didion herself, who has not entered old age with resilience or any care for wisdom. She’s frail, she tells us again and again. But she’s also Joan Didion and a killer writer still, though she claims not and relies more than may be wise on the repetition of key phrases. All through the book——a book about her daughter’s death——you keep wondering, what happened? What several things (for there seem to be several things) went wrong? It’s not that kind of memoir. Didion will not go there so you need to look back at THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING to hear more.
Francisco Goldman’s SAY HER NAME, which I thought wonderful and gripping, sent me on this memoir binge. Roland Barthes’ MOURNING DIARY kept me there since I had recently lost a mother and a brother too.
So I have been doing my own writing hoping to do it in way that feels true to me and speaks to others. I am processing my new book: PICNIC IN THE DARK: THE CLASSICS AT A TIME OF WAR AND LOSS. It’s a sequel to my earlier memoir about growing up in-between Italian and Jewish American cultures in New York. It’s also a meditation on why we read classic books at times of loss and how they speak to us at this time of ongoing wartime.
I’ll say more from time to on mariannatorgovnick.tumblr.com. I love this work and can’t wait to read more!