All of you writers and would-be writers who have never been sexually abused by your parents, suffered from domestic assault, been abandoned on a highway somewhere by grandparents when raising you got to be too much; any of you who have never suffered from anorexia or bulimia, are not cancer survivors, who have never had a child addicted to drugs or lost a child before his time; those of you who have not been addicted to anything at all; and those of you who haven’t had the misfortune of having your spouse leave you for a member of the same sex, who haven’t suffered from any mental illness (even a minor one); as well as the few of you who have never suffered deprivation of any kind (sorry, if you had your lunchbox stolen in grammar school you do not qualify) or did not lose money in the crash, whose parents are not famous and fucked up Any of you who are not blind go-go dancers or quadriplegic painters or authors who compose with your eyelashes; and, of course, those of you who were not child prodigies, and all of you who have never bothered to suffer for one moment the pain of self contemplation. All of you writers who live comfortable lives in the suburbs where the most pressing problem is where to go for dinner, and last but not least, all of those of you who are not from another country which you had to flee because of poverty, war or mutilation –HAVE WE GOT AN OFFER FOR YOU!
No longer in vogue are memoirs centered around angst or pain or loss. The publishing industry is so over that.
No…. according to an acid-tongued review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review, all you have to do now to get a book contract to write about your life—or some small part of it—is be totally, utterly boring and have a decent upper middle class life about which you do only the most mundane of contemplating.
Sound easy? Not so fast. Although Knopf, one of the most respected houses in the industry, bought the (apparently) slender memoir, the scathing assessment of it by book reviewer Ada Calhoun may cause the publisher pause in this new experiment to publish books in which absolutely nothing happens and no catharsis or epiphany is reached. ( I would caution you to write your tome very quickly.)
To wit: “Gideon’s memoir opens with a scene in front of her son’s school. The carpool line ultimate prompts her to wonder, ‘Is this all there is?’ Other triggers for existential angst: her 9-year-old’s first trip to camp, her dog’s death and the difficulty of finding a mattress both she and her husband like on a budget of $3,000.”
The reviewer goes on to tell us that the author is having “what may well be the least dramatic mid-life crisis in American history. She doesn’t start drinking, traveling or sleeping around. Nor does she get a job, adopt a baby or even do charity work. The scope of what is not done in the course of this book boggles the mind. It’s like an addiction memoir minus the addiction or a tell all without the all.”
I don’t know about you, but I am panting to get to a bookstore and buy the book right this minute.
As soon, of course, as I finish reading the review again, which seems, even at second or third glance, far more interesting and lively than the book itself.
And please don’t lecture me about finding out for myself if the book is as bad as the reviewer says it is. I don’t care.
I am just thrilled that finally all the boring people with no lives and no quest for a life—and there must be tons of them– can get a book published.
I don’t know about you but I sure was getting tired of those other memoirs where people triumphed over pain and anguish or discovered love in the arms of a foreign stranger, or married a better man than the one who left them. I was just sick to death of reading about all that tsuris.*
This year I am only seeking out memoirs in which absolutely nothing happens, is accomplished, thought about or considered. So before the next bad review comes out and the publishers have a change of mind: get thee to a computer.
Because soon enough a reviewer will say that the book discussed above is “a breath of fresh air” and everyone will be running to get in on the act.
*tsuris is Yiddish for big trouble