lit hub

Surviving the Ordinary: Why We Need Memoirs of Regular Lives

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Click over to Lit Hub today, where Musing editor Mary Laura Philpott contributes an essay about memoirs. Here’s an excerpt:

I am 100 percent here for a good stranger-than-fiction memoir. Do I want to know how someone escaped a cult, pulled off a heist, or became famous after surviving a freak accident? Absolutely. Send me your tales of life-and-death adventure. But I also want to read about the lives (and deaths) of people who face nothing extraordinary at all, whose stories exemplify the challenges and realities of common, daily existence. High stakes make for great reading, but examine any life, and you’ll see the stakes get pretty high for all of us at some point, even if the only decisions we ever make are the ones billions of people have made before us and billions will make again. It’s not novelty that draws me to a memoir, at least not always. Read the rest of this entry »

“None of it happened and all of it’s true” – Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth

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Photo by Heidi Ross
Ann Patchett in the back storeroom at Parnassus Books with her dog, Sparky (photo: Heidi Ross)

Those of us who work and shop at Parnassus Books have a unique perspective on Ann Patchett’s novels, because we witness their creation at somewhat close range. We’re here in the store when Ann comes in to pick up a stack of books she has ordered for research. We’re hanging around when she finishes a morning of writing and brings her pup Sparky over to run around the shop. We weigh in on characters’ names and book cover designs, and we celebrate when the manuscript has finally been turned in. But we’re not inside Ann’s head. We know some things about the story, but we don’t know all the ins and outs and whys and hows — unless, of course, we ask. Read the rest of this entry »