Memoir Mumblings

There’s a great cartoon by Dan Piraro ( out that I have decided it’s safer not to have on this post for possible copyright reasons. A woman writer is signing books at a book store. The name of her book is called My Miserable Life. haha, an obvious memoir. Her parents are apologizing to her, saying that if they had known that she was going to be a writer they would have been better parents. Too bad she wasn’t born with a warning for her parents.

Beware: a writer is born. Treat her well!

I find it funny because anybody writing a memoir that involves their childhood is likely to find flaws in their upbringing. Heck, most of us do anyway.

My memoir manuscript (such as it is) is out with beta readers right now. Nervous? Me? Hah, yup!

On the subject of memoir, I just finished Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, a pseudonym. I gave it a 2 out of 5. I’m a generous rater. If you have read it, what did you think? I felt I was being played. Not totally sure in what way. The obvious goal was to persuade readers that sociopaths are special and are a boon to society. Apparently she is real, an ex-law professor named Jamie Rebecca Lund. Apparently the book (and its creepy admissions) caused her to lose a great gig as a law professor at BYU.

But the creepiness of story and author are not why I gave the book a 2. It’s repetitive and quite dry for very long passages. Copy editing was well done though!

Finally, a memoir needs to have a very trustworthy narrator, and that is where this book could never have worked. By the writer’s admission, sociopaths lie and manipulate. So how could I trust her?


Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Book Review, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing Talk

55 responses to “Memoir Mumblings

  1. I’ve seen that cartoon before, too. (It does say with a signature and date.)
    I haven’t read the memoir. Having an unreliable narrator–I suppose it could work, but probably more in fiction (think Mr. Robot), and not if you also think the narrator is creepy and the prose is dry and repetitive. That would kill most anything. 🙂

  2. I haven’t heard of Confessions of a Sociopath, but now I’m curious. I’ll have to look it up when I get a chance.

  3. I’ve seen that cartoon floating around writer-types on the internet. So funny! Childhoods are funny things. I would tell you I had a good one but there were some tragedies (my father dying when I was 10) that changed the trajectory of my life. Some for the good, some not what I wanted (but who knows?). If I can’t trust the narrator I would tire of the book fast.

    • That not trusting thing, yes. Just thought of something else about it. In fiction if the narrator isn’t reliable, it’s typical that we don’t find out until near the end when it’s a big shock and part of the story. Not always, most most often. But knowing all along the writer isn’t reliable is another matter. The only classic book I can think of that does that is Camus’ The Stranger which is probably about a sociopath.
      I hear you on your childhood. The writing of the story might be a good thing to help you sort things out in a new way. That’s what I am finding. Even if I never publish mine, I have sorted a lot of things out by the process. 9 year process, I might add ;).

  4. Many of us just hope to outlive our parents long enough to write about childhood, hm?
    I don’t like unreliable narrators. Although I’ve not read this one, I can imagine your reaction.

    • Re your first comment: bahaha. Um, yeah, it’s a problem.
      The real problem with unreliable narrators in fiction is, no matter how wonderful the stories can be, you can’t really talk about them because it gives away the stories. I find that super annoying.

  5. Having firsthand experience with a sociopath, I wouldn’t believe anything they wrote.

  6. My project for a day in December during Winter Break is to take a day and “experience” kin types. I am looking forward to your memoir.

    • Oh, you are so sweet, Rae! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

      • I’m taking a break from blogging until New Year’s Day, but then I will review Kin Types on PWR. My pleasure.

        • Thank you so much, Rae. You’re great! Also, have a wonderful break. Sometimes we really need to recharge our batteries!

          • Today was the last trip to the university until MLK week. Tomorrow is last class at the college, then their exam is on Tuesday. Grading/averaging/posting grades, and “It’s all over but the shouting,” as my grandmother used to say. In January I will start fresh with a lighter load. Bring it on!

            • Although I am no longer teaching, this week still makes me anxious because that’s how I always felt about all the papers and exams to grade at this time! And the pressure to get the grades in on time. Can’t wait until you’ve only got the shouting left: YIPPEE!

  7. p.s. I bought a copy.

  8. Congratulations on getting your memoir first reading, Luanne! Speaking of memoirs, I am deeply immersed in Lucy Moore’s fascinating account of the seven years she and her husband spent in Navajo country. Into the Canyon itells the author’s story while giving insight into Indian culture. It’s written with such compassion and humor, I hate to put it down. Have an great week.

    • Thanks for the memoir tip, Elaine! It sounds wonderful. I put it on my Goodreads to-read list. You have a great week, too, and I hope you are healing rapidly.

  9. That book sounds a little like it is written by a narcissistic sociopath – she can’t believe you wouldn’t love her anyway! 🙂 Is Kin Types available for kindle? (Cause I just got gifted one 🙂 )

    • Haha, it’s so true. She thinks she is so charming, but the book has no charm.
      Sadly, Kin Types is only in paperback, very typical of small press books and chapbooks.

  10. Having read the article you linked to, I think that memoir would be hard going – there seems to be nothing likeable about the narrator, let alone whether her words could be trusted!

    • Andrea, I did see one or more reviews that said she was so unlikeable and isn’t a sociopath supposed to be charming! I didn’t even ask to like her, so I guess I was setting my standards pretty low ;)!

  11. Love it! And I know that scenario. I have said that to people close to me – “Behave yourself or I’ll put you in my book.” LOL! Oh, the POWER!

  12. Super review, Luanne. I’ll take your word.

  13. Hi Luanne, Interesting post. Who in the world would admit to being a sociopath? Well, obviously the writer of that memoire and I would have to agree, she is a sociopath. Also, I do have your “Doll God” book of poetry and, like so many of us writers, I have a long list of books to read and to review, as promised. I have managed to read and review a few of them and it won’t be that long before I read and review your book. I am not, now, and until I complete this list of books I want to read, will I add anymore books to my list. So, please forgive me for taking so long. Karen 🙂

    • I feel like her grandiose ideas make her feel that it’s important for her to be different from others. It’s almost like she was bragging. Pretty warped. Oh, thank you so much about Doll God, Karen! That’s so nice of you!

  14. Thanks, Luanne. I’ll give it a miss

  15. Exciting re: your memoir. It too will be in print ere long, I prophesy. I love the cat wrestling with “Kin Types.” I own “Confessions of a Sociopath” and have been able to read only a few pages at a time due to various duties. The author is kind of nasty and remoseless so far. And yes, of course, she is playing the reader. Too bad she lost a good gig at BYU by being a jerk.

  16. “By the writer’s admission, sociopaths lie and manipulate. So how could I trust her?” – my favorite line! … and I thought maybe the punch line to the cartoon might be parents being thanked by the writer for giving her lots of material to work with! Hah
    Love the final photo featuring Perry – he’s a family member now!

    • LOL, I like that punch line!
      Don’t you want to trust a memoirist? Without that trust, what would be the point? The viewpoint is the writer’s alone, you know?

      • (sorry, I missed this comment from a while back, Luanne!) Yes, absolutely, the viewpoint is the writer’s alone! You’ve got a gift for turn of phrase, for sure, Luanne! 🙂

  17. great post Luanne. There have been a few memoirs that have unreliable narrators that have worked. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes would be one. What would worry me about the one you are reading is that sociopaths (I’m thinking narcissist mainly) don’t recognise that this is how they are so they wouldn’t be claiming to be one. The title would put me off. When you think about it though all memoir is somewhat unreliable because memory is unreliable. I believe as long as it is the author’s truth/memory it is fine. Henry Adams put it beautifully. “This was the journey he remembered. The actual journey may have been quite different, but the actual journey has no interest for education. The memory was all that mattered.” Congratulations on getting your memoir to this stage. I’ll look forward to reading it when it is published.

    • I’m so sorry I didn’t respond here. I just found so many comments I have not responded to that I feel that I been AWOL this early winter! Why do you feel that Frank McCourt is an unreliable narrator? To me an unreliable narrator is someone who sets out to deceive the reader. This works particularly well in some books/stories that have a suspenseful tone. In fact, I can think of three wonderful ones right now, but don’t want to mention them because it’s better that the reader not know that the narrator is unreliable. But a memoirist is always a little unreliable because anybody is when talking about themselves. But to be a true unreliable narrator, I just can’t see it in Angela’s Ashes. He stretches the truth in ways that seems in keeping with the story he’s telling. So, yes, “all memoir is something unreliable.”

      • There are a number of reasons why McCourt is an unreliable narrator. He has built his narrative on a foundation of unreliabillity with no or little reflection in his author’s voice. His use of the historical present tense which gives the same vision to both the narrated and narrating ‘I’ alone is enough to make him an unreliable narrator. I don’t see an unreliable narrator as one who sets out to deceive but rather it is a narrative told by a person (in this case a child) who is not in possession of the full truth and does not therefore impart the truth to the reader. In Angela’s Ashes eg when they pray that Mickey Spellacy’s family will die and one of their prayers is answered when Mickey dies. Frankies response was that “this will surely teach him a lesson.” We know the truth of this. It is not the truth that this unreliable narrator is giving but rather that TB was an unforgiving disease. I don’t agreee that all memoir is unreliable. I do agree that truth is individual to the person and in telling a memoir it is the truth according to the memoirist. That is not unreliable because it is their truth. Out and out lies such as in Frey’s memoir is nothing but fraud. If you want more on unreliable narrators in memoir have a look at Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson’s book Reading Autobiography – A Guide for interpreting life narratives. It is worth a read irregardless.
        Happy New year Luane. Cheers Irene

  18. It seems that sociopaths and narcissists have become popular heroes (House, Sherlock Holmes on the show, Sherlock, and also the Holmes on Elementary), along with zombies and vampires. I’m sure there is a cultural analysis somewhere that someone has written?

    • Oh wow. Carla, just wow. Yes, you’re right, of course. I hadn’t thought of that. My favorite sociopath that I can think of right now, though, isn’t new. It’s Crime and Punishment. And then The Stranger. I’ve read that Becky Sharp of Vanity Fair is seen as a sociopath, too.
      But I agree about the vampires. Ick.

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