Weekly Feature

Suzanne Plunkett/AP
Author David Sedaris

Memoirs, True and False

June 26, 2008
by Liz Colville
The reputation of the once-beloved memoir has been tarnished in recent years by authors sacrificing the truth in favor of a more exciting story—or a more profitable book offer. But a host of classic and new memoirs remain to satisfy our need to read about real people and real events.

The best memoirs combine anonymity with adventure—and it’s the “adventure” part that spurs authors to make things up. The alternative is to be famous; a famous person’s life is fascinating to millions. Ernest Hemingway, Barbara Walters and Barack Obama have all accomplished the task, showing us the writer’s life, the journalist’s secret life, and the life of the star politician. George Bernard Shaw said, “The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business,” but the memoir writer is increasingly happy to open up that Pandora’s Box and let us rifle through its contents.

Browse findingDulcinea’s Books Web Guide or Arts & Letters Daily for ways to discover more of the latest memoirs and what critics are saying about them.

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