11 February 2011

Yackety-yak: Memoir Review Woe


My trek to more adult genres has lead me to memoirs. So far I loved one and found the other annoying. While I am thoroughly enjoying the non-fiction storytelling, reviewing real characters is so much harder than fiction.
Saying someone bugged me suddenly feels more personal, ya know?
How do you keep it honest but nice when a person in a memoir irritated you?

40 comments :

  1. I do like memoirs...but its always a toss up, if the person writing it is not a good writer the story gets lost in the redundancies of the message they are trying to tell. Mostly the best ones Ive read are those that have a co-writer or they are writers themselves.

    A couple of my favorite ones are Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamont and Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I do like memoirs and I have reviewed them. Some I like and some I don't. But like you I always try to be careful and kind. Even when I review other books I try to be kind because in essence the author is the "real" person in the book. They invest so much of themselves into their writing I think it is good to be respectful. Once I reviewed a book that didn't gel with me and I wasn't in the best mood and one of my commenters remarked on my unkindness. Ever since I've tried extra hard to be careful.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Would be hard to critique on of those, and I do not really read them either. I guess I really like my fiction

    ReplyDelete
  4. Tina and Kaye: I edited my post to make my issue more clear. Sorry I didn't clearly express my cry for help the first time :)

    Tina: So true! Excellent point. I need to look into the co-writer thing :)

    Kaye: I feel ya! That is one of the things I strive for too :)

    Blod: :) A definite benefit to fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  5. well, I just try to remember I'm not becoming friends with them - I'm reading a book about them. On one level whether or not I like them shouldn't matter. That said, I know a lot of people who had that complaint about Eat Pray Love and Cleaving (both I have read and did like). So I guess it's a matter of knowing your own taste. If that's going to bug you, than really controversial memoirs about bad thigns, probably aren't for you, and you might want to sticker to lighter, safer (and yet still excellent) fare such as Summer at Tiffany, Grayson, My Life in France, The Last Lecture, Wait Til Next Year, Dewey, Cloister Walk, Comfort Me With Apples - really there is an extremely long list of memoirs that aren't going to stick in your craw if that's been an issue for you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Carin: I like your take on "not becoming friends." I will definitely keep that one in mind. I also totally stick by that rule and pick lighter stuff. Thank you for the excellent advice.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I hear ya. It's a hard genre to review. Really you just have to write how their life affected yours.

    ReplyDelete
  8. OHHHH- Ok well then..about reviewing memoirs. Its hard because the review is personal no matter what...but like Michelle said I guess you have to look at how it affected you.

    I read a memoir where the family irritated me so much and I thought the parents were really ignornant...but they were dead so I couldnt really write "wow you guys were really stupid"...I think I pharsed it like I would have made different choices...:D

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh I totally agree... it can be really tricky reviewing a memoir that you didn't love!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I agree with Michelle, too. I've been interested in reading Eat, Pray, Love and Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Committed. I think the same with go with Biographies. I have a bunch on my shelf I've been considering reading for my blog. Have you seen the new book about Gypsy Rose Lee. It's called American Rose. I totally want to read that!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hmm, tough question. Something I'm curious to know the answer to, also.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Michelle is spot on. I would add that you can focus on the writing and on the overall tone of the book. That allows you to review it without getting to personal.

    ReplyDelete
  13. There are so many, many memoirs out there, there's no reason to read ones that bother you. Even though it isn't a memoir, I couldn't finish Into The Wild because I wanted to slap the kid and was quite happy, knowing he would eventually die. That's not someone I wanted to spend more time with. But usually I'm able to keep enough distance to watch these disagreeable people - like a car wreck, safe in the knowledge that I'm not in that upside-down car. If you want more memoir recs, let me know. I read a ton of them!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I do prefer real life stories to fictional..., even in movies I love it if it's based on a real life story. Reviewing someone's memoir might be similar to talking about someone's artwork.

    ReplyDelete
  15. With memoirs, I try to comment more on the structure of the story and my overall experience with it than on the inidividual events themselves. I mean, you can't really say...whoa, that was stupid...I mean it's someone's life, how would you feel? My thoughts...share the journey, mention the pitstops, but dwell on the "big picture". If I know you though...you'll get the balance right no problem at all. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  16. I don't read memoirs for this exact reason - I don't think its possible! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Tina: OOoo that is fine suggestion! *high five*

    Jenny: Right? :)

    Julie: Oooo nice choice! I hope you do select it because I would love to see what you think :)

    JessicaBookLover: Yay I'm not alone :)

    Shannon: Yay I'm totally making that the positive aspect of the book :)

    Carin S.: True. I definitely aim for that. But sometimes you get bamboozled. Oh OMG I saw that movie and I wanted to slap him too! LOL great analogy!

    Maya: O Maya. That is some fine advice! Thank you!

    GMR: Thanks for having faith in me sweetie :)

    Gina Precious: LOL true!

    So to recap:
    -Carin said: Remember they are not your friends. Try to keep it objective.
    -Michelle said: Talk about how it affected your life.
    -Tina said: Try phrasing it like "I would have made different choices."
    -Shannon suggested: Focus on the writing.
    -Maya said: Treat it like artwork.
    -GMR said: Share the journey. Mention the pitstops. But focus on the big picture.

    Thanks ladies! This is all magnificent advice. I am feeling better already! *group hug*

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh Juju I love memoirs!
    But yeah sometimes they do make me so mad I feel liked throwing the book!
    That's like when i read - "Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir" I only gave it 2 stars because the girl pissed me off so much with her constant bad choices! LOL
    Rule of thumb - Don't piss me off in a book or you will get a bad rating!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well I guess everyone has a different experience and experiences life differently. We can learn lots from things that irritate us. xx

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm not sure! Maybe say something about the "voice," tone, or something about the writing makes the person comes off as?

    ReplyDelete
  21. For some reason there is very little in non-fiction that doesn't irk me in some way.. of course, I don't particularly like first person fiction either... seeing a trend?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wall: 1. LOL I know that feeling. 2. Good for you!

    Beach: Very true!

    Ladytink: Oooo I like those words. Thank you!

    Gina Hott: LOL at least you won't find your self in my predicament.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ooh, that's difficult. I don't read many memoirs - the one that comes to mind first is Eat, Pray, Love and it happens that it's one of my favorite books so that doesn't really help. lol! Although I do think a lot of people found E. Gilbert a bit annoying...

    My only suggestion - and I apologize if it's already been mentioned in the above comments - would be to figure out what specifically annoyed you about the person and work from there and talk about the things you disagreed on or something like that? If it turns out that you simply don't like the person you could say you "didn't connect with many elements of [person]'s personality". I remember not particularly loving Chelsea Handler's Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea and I addressed my dislike as a matter of our personalities and senses of humor not quite meshing.

    Not sure if that helps at all, haha. Best of luck, JuJu!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Memoirs are new to me, only read 3, Glass Castle is a must. Motherless child was good also. My issue is 'really' believing everything I read, haven't been irritated by a person yet.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Just stick to telling the truth in a tasteful manner. As long as you don't sound spiteful or hateful towards the book, your readers will appreciate the honesty.

    ReplyDelete
  26. When I read memoirs, I try not to rate the story or characters. Rather, I only rate the writing because it's not my place to judge anything else :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Casee: First, can I just say I LOVE your new pic? Secondly, thank you so much for your thoughts. I will definitely try your suggestions :)

    Marce: O I haven't had that feeling before. Now I will be waiting to see if that ever happens. Thanks for your input!

    Freda: Will do :) Thank you!

    Melissa: Excellent point! My problem is that my emotions about the characters inherently affect my enjoyment of it as a whole. But thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts with me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I can't think of a memoir that annoyed me. Not sure I even read one, but have read some similiar works. I would use honesty in my review but try to word it in a tactful way. Tough but doable.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I've read 2 or 3 memoirs my whole life and to date, no memoirs annoy me yet. So I don't really know how to keep it nice if I read one that annoy me in future.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hmm, that's pretty tough!! I guess say "the way the character was written"?? Good luck!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love memoirs! I generally don't say much about the character since it is a real person.

    ReplyDelete
  32. BermudaOnion: Exactly! It's tough :) Thanks for visiting.

    Carrie: Oooo good one! Thanks!

    Darlyn: Oh good for you! I'm sort of envious of your good luck.

    Jenny Girl: Totally. Thanks doll :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I don't usually read memoirs, and I am suddenly very glad that I don't. I hadn't ever thought of having to review real people!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oh, ugh. This is the reason I've been trying to avoid as many memoirs as possible. I'm always fearing I'll hurt people's feelings or not be able to be completely honest. When I have, I'm very selective with the ones I do choose and then it comes down to critiquing story structure and believe-ability. Still, a very tough one at that. I don't envy you in the slightest. Blah! {{hugs}}

    ReplyDelete
  35. I guess I figure that if someone is gutsy enough to put it ALL out there in a memoir, they probably can handle if a few people find them irritating ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  36. 1st daughter: *smile* Thank you for reminding me I'm not alone. It's tough that line between gentle and honest. :)

    Jupiter: LOL Good point. I hadn't thought of it that way. It kinda comes with the territory right? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  37. I don't read memoir, so that should be interesting...

    ReplyDelete