Memoirs: Self Indulgent?

Yesterday I finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I went to GoodReads to enter my rating and looked at some of the reviews out of curiosity.

One of the things I've noticed when it comes to memoirs is at least one review, if not quite a few, complain that the book is "self-indulgent".  In my previous post, I mentioned that I'm not much for reading memoirs, but that's merely because I tend to prefer the fantasy genre.  It's nothing against people telling their personal stories.

In fact, I read several mini-memoirs a day in the form of blogs.  I read blogs about homeschooling, genealogy, Paganism, reading, writing, and M/s relationships.  These are the things that interest me personally, because they relate to my life.

I also maintain three blogs here, and I am the homeschooling blogger for PaganSquare.  The goal in maintaining a blog is to reach out to and connect with others with similar interests and lives.  That's part of the fun of the internet and, yes, blogs are like little daily or weekly memoirs.

So if a memoir is self-indulgent, a blog could be considered self-indulgent as well.

Perhaps the difference is the audience reached and the fact that most bloggers are not compensated for their writing.  A mass-market paperback tends to reach more people, and the author is also benefiting through any advances and, once the advance earns out, royalties.

If we pick up a memoir hoping for some sort of life-changing message, we might be projecting expectations that are far too lofty.  A memoir is rather like a blog, in that you need to connect with the writer to really enjoy it.  I think, like any other book, we go in for hoping for something specific.  Sometimes, we are very happy with the results, and sometimes we are disappointed.

I don't think a memoir that lacks a deep spiritual message or insight is "self-indulgent".  I think an agent and publisher simply found a person's story interesting and compelling enough to share with the rest of us.  :)


Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan