Friday, October 30, 2009

Words on Memoir by Susanna Sonnenberg

"I felt a sense of frustration and outrage that people started to look for newspaper reporting when they picked up a memoir. The form has never been that -- it's deeply impressionistic. And isn't that what we look to artists for? A new rendering, a unique voice in a common conversation. Art should always give us something to see that we couldn't have defined before. At the beginning of Speak, Memory Nabokov describes his "awakening of consciousness as a series of spaced flashes, with the intervals between them gradually diminishing until bright blocks of perception are formed, affording memory a slippery hold." He acknowledges that each consciousness is acute and unique, in possession of its own "bright blocks." And he's going to write them down. I also love memory's fallibility implied in Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales, which is memoir: He writes, "I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six." Thus, the two versions are both true and untrue at the same time. I guess I felt that I needed to make absolutely clear how deeply I revered the form of memoir, what a fascinating, personal expression it is. By definition, memoir is eccentric, to use your word." -- Susanna Sonnenberg, author of Her Last Death

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