Welcome to famemoir

March 21, 2010

Main Entry: mem·oir

Pronunciation: \’mem-ˌwär, -ˌwȯr\

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle French memoire, from memoire memory, from Latin memoria

Date: 1571

1 : an official note or report : MEMORANDUM

2 a : a narrative composed from personal experience b: AUTOBIOGRAPHY —usually used in plural c : BIOGRAPHY

3 a : an account of something noteworthy : REPORT b plural : the record of the proceedings of a learned society

– Merriam-Webster.com

Out of Merriam-Webster’s definition of memoir, it is the 2a definition which most closely matches my own thoughts on the genre. I consider a memoir a way for a person to share a private memory with the world. Memoirs are often accounts of “something noteworthy;” however, I am most intrigued by memoirs of seemingly typical people who lead seemingly typical lives.

My favorite memoir is “Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia,” by Marya Hornbacher. When Hornbacher wrote the book, she was not famous and nothing in her life qualified her to be famous. Her book detailed her struggle with eating disorders, drugs and alcohol. By no means was her book about anything “noteworthy,” but her detailed account of her addictions was a success. “Wasted” was nominated for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction and it has sold over a million copies in America.

Millions of people struggle with addictions and many of them write about their problems. But most people’s journal entries aren’t transformed into best-selling books. What did Hornbacher’s memoir have that catapulted it to success?

famemoir will attempt to answer what makes a memoir famous, including “Wasted,” as well as if writing a memoir is motivated by a desire for fame.


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