West With the Night, Beryl Markham – Have you ever read a BAD book by a fabulous aviatrix? Be honest. This one is lush, and thick, and lyrical, and the marvelousness of Markham really shines though. She was the inspiration for Felicity in Out of Africa! She was a horse trainer! She schtupped one of George V's kids AND Antoine de Saint Exupéry! Hemingway called her "a high-grade bitch" and said she made him feel embarrassed because he couldn't write nearly so well. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Also known as memoirs and biographies. Or things that mostly fit into that rubric.
The Last American Man, Liz Gilbert – Okay, so, I randomly have a mutual friend with Liz Gilbert (check ME out, such a hotshot) who was at Liz Gilbert's house, and was all "oh, I have a friend who loves your book," and Liz Gilbert was all (THIS IS A DRAMATIC PARAPHRASE) "yeah, no kidding, there's a movie about it with Julia Goddamn Roberts, and I receive ninety weird letters written in menstrual blood every day" and my friend said, triumphantly: "NO. She loves The Last American Man." And then Liz Gilbert went totally [...]
In Pamela Ribon’s recent, very funny, moving memoir, Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public, the author looks back at her many teenaged letters to her crushes, examining them from her current-day vantage point. I really loved it (so much that I included it here), and as a lifelong journal keeper with my own history of cringeworthy meanderings, wanted to know more about what inspired Ribon to examine her younger self in this way — and what she learned about not only “Little Pam” but also Current Pam, and writing itself, through the course of creating the book. Luckily, she was kind enough to answer [...]
Foreskin's Lament, Shalom Auslander – Maybe my favourite book of the last five, ten years? So weird. I mean, it's an odd thing to hang your hat on the memoir of an angrily non-observant, painfully religious Jew who rails against the almighty and his numerous crimes for a couple hundred pages, but you just can't imagine how funny and sharp Auslander is.
Nicholas and Alexandra, Robert Massie – We joked about it earlier, but only with love, because it's grippppppping. And, you know, kind of schlocky, but who cares? The important thing is: they're all dead. Do not [...]
I sometimes read dating memoirs. Well, I read books by female comedians about dating in their twenties, and in my head I call them dating memoirs.
There’s a common refrain: “What can I say? I was [younger than I am now] and he was [cool to me]. If only I knew then what I know now!”
I’ve decided to publish my dating memoirs in medias res. I am 24 years old, and I only know what I know now. So my brain is essentially drunk! All the time! Not because I’m actually drunk, but because I'm in the thick of the action right now. I'm too close to really “get it.” [...]
Dave Hill's book of personal essays, Tasteful Nudes, came out today. If you're in a bad mood, or place, just pick it up! Boom. Problems temporarily solved. Not to give everything away, but here are some things about Dave: dude worked at a homeless shelter, opened for Slash, went on a nudist cruise as a non-nudist, grew up in a big Catholic family in Cleveland, drove a pedicab, was depressed at times but had family to lean on who weren't all like "AH! You're leaning on me! Stop leaning on me!" He's like Bill Bryson, except not. We chatted about it.
Catch up here!
Too Late to Die Young, Harriet McBryde Johnson – I was so happy to see McBryde Johnson come up in the comments of my PETA piece, because she was a wonderful, angry, take-no-prisoners woman with a brutal pen. These essays are incredible. Her classic account of debating Peter Singer can be read here in full), but Too Late to Die Young features tales of taking on the Jerry's Kids "crip sideshow," refusing to let the Secret Service case her dorm room when Reagan visited, and other missives from an ornery life. I miss living in a world that had Harriet in it, even [...]
"I'm in the middle of writing a book that is part psychology, part philosophy, part spirituality, part Q&A, part prose, part art…and is not a memoir." —Alanis Morissette is in the middle of writing a book.