Some recent memoir publications

Memoirs – expect the unexpected, that’s for sure. A recent “memoir” critiqued in The Globe and Mail is An Exclusive Love, which is a memoir about suicide – someone else’s.  Two someone elses. Author Johanna Adorjan writes about the dual suicides of her grandparents; the grandfather in failing health and wishing to exit his life, the grandmother unwilling to live without him.  The critique praises Adorjan’s book and calls it, fittingly, a “memorial” to the grandparents. The overall description of the book sounds fascinating. I would read it in a wink.

Another recent review in The Globe and Mail, done by columnist Leah McLaren, discusses “widow lit,” which while it is a term I hadn’t heard before, it’s certainly a genre I’ve been assiduously avoiding (just cannot even open The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion). I am married to an older man – quite a bit older than me. I don’t want to even think about any of this.  Anyway, it’s poor old Joyce Carol Oates who wrote a recent “widow lit” memoir, when she unexpectedly lost her husband of 47 years, Raymond J. Smith.  Says MacLaren: “A Widow’s Story is more than an individual tale of woe. It’s also a seminal text in an emerging literary genre. First there was chick lit, then came mummy lit. Now we have widow lit – a wave of books unleashed by the experience of losing a loved one.”

Gentle readers, you go right ahead and enjoy yourselves with this genre. I’ll pass. But I did want to note its emergence and perhaps its looming pervasiveness.

One last memoir from recent G & M gleanings: Inside Wikileaks, by Daniel Somscheit-Berg. Well of course, you could see something like this coming. Make money as you can, from someone famous, now fallen on hard times. “Disillusioned insider’s take on the rise and fall of Wikileaks is much like reading a 21st-century version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm,” writes reviewer Colin Freeze.  “Both books feature a rag-tag handful of insurgents, whose teamwork garners them initial success. And both portray a charismatic autocrat as the group’s leader, a figurehead who publicly denounces tyranny, even as he privately imposes it.”

“People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like” –  President Lincoln once said.

Yes, exactly.

Rockbound, a classic Canadian novel by Frank Parker Day

No, it’s not a memoir. Now and again I just have to read a bit of fiction. Rockbound won the “Canada Reads” contest in 2005, bolstering its long-standing reputation as a Canadian classic (in this case, of Nova Scotia’s South Shore). Donna Morrissey, one of Canada’s finest novelists, was a fervent promoter of Rockbound.

Now that I’ve read it, I understand why.

When novels get picked apart, section by section, theme by plot by style, as they always do, they never make a perfect reading experience. So I could tell you there were aspects to Rockbound that bothered me (the tidy and forced romantic ending, for example). Overall, I am just glad to have read the book, which did what I require novels to do, and that is fly me away to other times and places and permit me to live there a while. I loved the South Shore dialogue (some might refute its accuracy, I don’t know), sustained throughout. I loved the insider’s view of a hardworking people (to put it mildly) and how they shaped their lives with this work on and by the ocean. It is not a kind life nor are they kind people. But I did enjoy their connectedness to the natural world and their strange, confrontational dependency on each other.Their world is a long, long way from microwaves, Facebook and the World Wide Web. Hell, it’s a long way from electricity and the Sears catalogue!!!