Monday, April 03, 2006


More about memoirs

I'm back in the shop after a strange and unpleasant flu-thing that was at least mercifully short. I hear it's going around. Well, I wish it hadn't come around here, but what can you do, what with members of the public stopping in all the time (the good, the bad, and the ugly, my customers - and you know who you are). While sick, I read, of course, to pass the hours and to think as little as possible about the charming situation at hand. I got through Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch in one long afternoon and early evening, and it is, as one of my regular readers commented below, so good that it transcends its subject matter. Not that there's anything wrong with a book about British football fandom. I'll read anything as long as it's written well and I find it compelling, as long as it moves me forward, and keeps me turning pages to find out what's happening next, as this book did. But the book isn't just about fan psychology, of course, it's Hornby's autobiography from young adolescence to manhood as his life parallels his team's progress (or lack thereof, more likely) through the decades. I like this construct very much. He says over and over again that his team's individual games and entire seasons eerily reflect the events in his life, even though he knows how irrational and superstitious this seems. But it's a very tidy literary form when used well, as it is here, and that's why the book is so readable for the non-Arsenal fan. He maintains a balance between talking about his team's growth (again, or lack of...) and his own growth (ditto). The book concludes when he's finally grown up, it seems to me, even as he's surrendered to the fate of being a life-long fan. Favorite quote from the book, about recalling childhood events:

"...of course I feel nostalgic, even if I am longing for a time which never really belonged to us: like I said, some things were better, some were worse, and the only way one can ever learn to understand one's own youth is by accepting both halves of the proposition."

As I've mentioned before, I love memoirs written by novelists. I like trying to understand how writers got the way they are, what life events were their Waterloos. In this instance, I can identify, as a sports fan, with Hornby's obsession. As a teenager, and a Mainer, I was obsessed with the Boston Celtics. Then the Pats in recent years, although I particularly loved the Pats during Steve Grogan days, again, when I was a teenager. And of course the Sox. I understand why Fever Pitch was gutted and made into a film about a Red Sox fan. It translates, because Sox fans have always had that same combination of despair, loyalty, and die-hard faithfulness that Hornby had/has for his own team. You love them because they are your team and that's that. Bottom line: a great book because it shows us that loving whatever you happen to love is just fine. No excuses necessary for your obsessions. Lucky for us, as readers, Hornby's are football, music (his book of music essays, published by McSweeney's, Songbook, is very fine, particularly for fans of his novel High Fidelity, or the film of the same name), and of course, BOOKS. I read his bookish articles with great glee and delight in the Believer magazine. I hope you do, too, dear readers.

A good memoir is well worth reading & lately, the best ones I've found are the ones by writers. I'll have to look up the ones you mentioned (Fever Pitch & the Frank Conroy one)

Still remember the experience of reading Daphne DuMaurier's various bios. One was a memoir written by her youngest daughter and the other was a biography of her. I was horrified by both & am not sure I ever want to read her books. Too bad, isn't it?
I haven't read any of the biographies of her, but, Kim, I'm here to tell you it would be a crying shame to miss reading "Rebecca" because of them. What a great novel. The suspense! The opening paragraph alone gives me chills every time I read it. And the first sentence is one of the best in fiction, in my opinion.

I understand the point you raise, though. Often, while reading a memoir, I find out something I would so much rather not have known about the author.
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