January 22, 2021

Catch your life, again | Culture

Catch your life, again | Culture

On the occasion of the publication of his seventh memoir, something called On Sunset, Perhaps it will never be published in Spain, a journalist, Henry Alford, called Kathryn Harrison, serial memoir writer. The label, apparently, still does not designate copies in bookstores, not even in the Anglo-Saxons, so addicted to the ingenious of some – think of the fiction of domestic horror chaos with which they designated those of Shirley Jackson -, but it is already in the air, so perhaps it is only a matter of time. Although writers of serial memories have always existed, but perhaps the times, these times in which the "I" is everywhere and the writer seeks his place, turn the exception into a norm.

Harrison reminds Alford that Maya Angelou wrote eight and Shirley MacLaine, 11. She tells him that, at some time in the past, when she was doing the Camino de Santiago, she came across a guy who, upon learning that she was a writer, wanted to know if she was there to follow in the footsteps of Shirley MacLaine , who first did the Camino and then wrote a book about what happened to him while he was doing it, something that Harrison herself planned to do. Remember that she felt slightly offended, why would she follow the footsteps of anyone when she could give her own? The serial writer of memoirs is an archaeologist of himself and of no one else, just as explain beautifully Mary Karr.

"Like many memoir writers, I have a horrible past and if I got into this it was to dig into it and see what it was. The problem is that I can not stop doing it. It's as if I need to unearth the same bone over and over again, "Karr explained in an interview with a North Carolina public radio. Karr has published three memoirs, and a book about writing memoirs (it's the last one, it's titled, The Art of Memoir). First, The liars club, originally published in 1995, is a best seller world. In Spain it was co-published by Errata Naturae and Periférica, who have just repeated the formula and, skipping Cherry (2001), they have just published the third bone with which Karr returned from that immersion in the past, a past, in this case, recent, in which something (or almost everything) went wrong: Illuminated (2009).

In the same way that a non-memorialist writer returns again and again on the same subject, inevitably, according to AM Homes, "until he solves it", the sensation is that a serial memorialist will not be able to avoid returning to himself. same until it is solved. Worse: can it be solved someday? Ianthe Brautigan, the only daughter of Richard Brautigan, published in 2000 a biography of her father that was in fact a book of his own entitled You Can not Catch Death – something like You can not catch Death – In the book, Ianthe, talks about her father, but mostly talks about herself, and tries to forgive herself for not being able to prevent the writer's suicide, for not even suspecting that something was wrong. Since he succeeds, since an explanation is given, it is certain, at the end, that Ianthe will keep the unearthed bone safe forever and will not need to go in search of anyone else.

It seems that his memoirs are a small exorcism that has nothing to do with the constant exorcism in which he seems to live perhaps the most famous memorialist of our time: Karl Ove Knausgard. Let's forget for a moment how amazing it seemed to be for the literary market that someone set out to tell his life in six books – considering that serial memorialists have existed, as we have seen, always – and go back to the horrible past that Mary Karr was talking about . One would say that Knausgard had it, and maybe that's why he does not seem willing to abandon his condition of serial memoir writer: to My struggle she is followed by a quartet of books in which she talks to her daughter about to be born and tells her about the world she will be with, based on what each of the things she talks about (bottles, telephones, planet Earth) means to him, and illuminating it with a memory, which is another way of telling oneself, of going for the bone that Karr was talking about.

The list of those who have returned again and again to dig into their past is long, very long (Henry Alford mentioned, among others, Augusten Burroughs, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Maynard, Frank McCourt and Lauren Slater, but certainly, it is every time more endless, who knows, perhaps Aixa de la Cruz, who has just published his first and highly recommended memories at 30, Change of idea, repeat), but the reasons why they do it could be summarized, we would say, in two. One is given by Emily Fox Gordon, author of the memoir Mocking Bird Years of which he spoke in his other memoir (a pieces) Book of Days, when he admits that what he did in that book was told in one of the many ways he could do it. "I decided to do it this way, to count certain things and not count others, to be the kind of person I thought I was at that moment," he wrote. A type of person who may not believe that it is in the future, when it needs to be counted again.

The other is triggered by Maggie O'Farrell when she affirms that in order to overcome the modesty that was given to her in I'm still here (Books of the Asteroid) became a character and treated herself as she had so far treated the characters in her novels. In doing so, O'Farrell was creating his own archetype, abandoning the chaos of reality and immersing himself in the order of fiction. And once life has become a novel, and in no case in one that is considered finished, who is able to escape the temptation to continue counting? And more considering that, as chaos, as Emily Fox Gordon points out in Book of Days, the life of anyone, and therefore, the life of any serial memorialist, can be told in a very different way each time. Or is there someone who is not in motion? As Mary Karr told the 88.5 WFDD announcer: "The only imbecile in my books is usually me, after all, it's who I'm fighting with."


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