Critique: The Memoir is Having an Oprah Moment, But I’m Not on Board

You get a memoir! You get a memoir! Everybody gets a memoir!

If there’s been one theme that has defined literature in the past decade, it has to be the tell-all memoir. You’ve seen them from everyone, including B-list celebs, Wall Street gurus, the most obscure mayoral candidate, Hillary Clinton … multiple times (she’ll be up to four in September), and authors who should keep their words fictionalized. As I write this, James Comey announced he would write one. And not that I’m discouraging everyday Joe Schmoes from writing, but they’re getting memoirs published too. People seem to love these books, so it makes sense that so many individuals would write them. I know I might lose friends for saying this, but:

I don’t like memoirs.

I’ve received some side eye when simply suggesting this idea to friends in the past, so it feels good to get this off my chest. I first realized my dislike for the genre three years ago. A good friend (and almost an equally good writer and journalist) let me borrow a memoir from her favorite professor. Now, I’m not throwing shade at this badass bawse who, as a renowned and successful journalist, writer, and teacher, has the stuff to back up anything she says.

But I honestly only read about 50 pages when I started wondering why I was reading it. What am I gaining from this experience? Am I even enjoying it? After a few weeks, I sheepishly returned the book to its owner with the confession that I didn’t think memoirs were my thing.

To me, they’re boring, and I always wind up asking, “Why does this person think they can write a book about their life? Why do they think THEIR wisdom and experiences are worth sharing on a public platform?” I acknowledge that viewpoint is about as pessimistic as they come, but I can’t help it. Even with Bossypants, which caused me to cackle on a crowded subway, I only read a few chapters when I quietly placed it back on my boyfriend’s book shelf. (That’s right. He owns Bossypants and loved it.)

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I love Tina, but I just can’t get on board.

Maybe they’re just trying to get you to see a different point of view, witness something you never would in person, or really just make you laugh. But I cannot get into a memoir.

The market is saturated; therefore, I don’t understand how simple supply and demand dynamics don’t come into play here. The supply of memoirs is infinite, but I feel we hit our limit a long time ago. Yet people keep publishing them, and readers keep picking them up. Six memoirs (according to my very unscientific data collection) were on the New York Times’ Aug. 6, 2017, Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction bestsellers list. I guess that’s some strong staying power. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I’d be the first to pick up a Gaga tell-all. So maybe I’m not as much of a hater as I’d like to believe. Just don’t expect many memoir reviews any time soon.

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