Past, Present and Future Memoirists

The recent bloggy “death” of Bitch, Ph.D.

The ongoing bloggy silences from a variety of other bloggers, including your’s truly.

Perhaps blogging is not unlike those little pink books with the fake locks, and a variety of other lined spiral notebooks,  that I’ve stored in plastic bins: most are half empty, started religiously right after Christmas or on January 1st, filled with lovingly detailed scenes of each lived day, or emotional outbursts that stem from the less visible but even more volatile inner world.  The entries become less detailed by April, and much less frequent by early June, only to die off as soon as the weather enticed the vitamin-D deprived me outside, away from florescent-lit navel gazing toward more sun-baked kinetic pursuits.

The dying of an individual’s blog may not follow the seasons as much, though I suspect for academics, fall is such a dramatic change from summer that blogs become just another thing on the to do list rather than a source of release and pleasure.

But like keepers of those lock-less diaries, I suspect all bloggers will return to blogging, or something like it, again and again. And though I know nothing truly ever goes away once it’s on the Internet, I hope all bloggers archive their blogs in some format that will be accessible in 2040.  I’m looking forward to those retrospective memoirs of bloggings-past.

The new Facebook feature I read about this morning seems particularly relevant since I suspect that the appeal of the instant response from hundreds of friends to our hastily posted status updates is more immediately rewarding than the infrequent comments to a thoughtfully developed blog posting: exporting our Facebook profiles.  It looks like there have been outside “apps” of sorts that have allowed you to store your Facebook pages on your hard drive, but now FB itself seems to be making it easier for everyone to do.  No longer must we allow that nagging worry that we’ll lose all those photos, those likes and dislikes, those status updates. [And there are at least 10 ways to archive one’s Tweets.]

I’m teaching the Introduction to the Memoir course this term and while the focus is on reading memoirs as a genre, we also do some autobiographical exercises, such as strategies for choosing a focus  for a memoir, or strategies for presenting such a past experience.  Many of my students have chosen to write a brief memoir as their final project (interestingly, only one has chosen to blog–the rest are writing traditional retrospective descriptions of a period in their past—almost all focused on the early teen years, not surprisingly) so the exercises are also designed to help them as they draft. 

Next week, I’ll remind them about this export feature in Facebook: for the future memoirist, reading our own status updates 30 years from now will be quite the minefield of information. [And by then, the 10th edition of the MLA Handbook will have a chapter devoted to citing such artifacts.]

8 responses to “Past, Present and Future Memoirists

  1. I will miss Bitch. It was one of the first blogs I read, and yowzer did it change my brain about alot of shit.

    I had a little pink book with a lock! It was my go-to activity when I had alot on my mind and just needed to get it down. It didn’t matter if I was busy with other activities or not. If I was writing in the book, it meant I really wanted my thoughts in writing so I can go back and analyze and remember. With blogs, your thoughts can change but the readers don’t know that. Blogs are static in an internet that might not die in our lifetime.

    I bought a book recently where I am featured on the FRONT COVER. It’s a memoir book of a town. I cried and cried reading it. There is someone in the book that died not too long ago who was a huge part of my life, and he had a huge connection to a murdered person in history. Reading his memoirs would have a totally different meaning from someone who didn’t know him like I did. His thoughts went beyond the writing, I knew the person in the flesh, I knew his wife the spitfire, I knew his house where the pictures were taken, the way he held his cards when he was sitting on aces, how he loved to sit out on the lawn watching birds. The book was written long before he died, and I had no idea of the pain he was going through when he contributed to the book. Outsiders would not understand how deeply personal the book is, in fact the reviews of it show that pretty clearly. Holler if you want to know the book, it might be good for your class. There’s a famous story behind it.

  2. I agree, JC. Bitch PhD WAS the first academic-type blog I read, and when it was active, I loved reading postings there, including Taddy’s.

    Interesting contrast between diaries and blogs—you’re right that blogs can be a point in time representation of a feeling unless they are followed/read thoroughly–but a single posting exists forever. And of course blogs are meant to be read by others, whereas my little pink diaries (I had many) were only addressed to a Dear Diary–an ideal reader who was mute.

    Of course I want to know—email me if you want it private ( My students find it fascinating that people write “response” memoirs to memoirs by friends or family members (such as the Wolff brothers, or Lucy Greeley’s friends writing about Autobiography of a Face, or a new memoir that is in response to Carolyn Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story—-Lucy and Carolyn both died, their friends responded in pain). A good friend of mine wrote a memoir a few years ago, and it was an out of body experience to read about the same memories seen so very differently.
    Your experience sounds different, and I’m very interested to read it….

  3. I want to know, too, JC!

    It’s so interesting, Annie, that you’re teaching a course on autobiography while our pop culture has exploded into autobio overload! I bet it’s different than a course would have been, say, 10 years ago.

  4. And yes, Ink, we definitely discuss the “age” of memoir, or so it seems, in the last 30 years, but it’s fascinating to find out that memoir has had other periods of popularity (Ben Yagoda’s book gives a somewhat wordy history, but one point he makes about the invention of the mirror leading to the self portrait in art and the memoir in lit definitely caught the class’s attention!).

    It’s a new class for me, so an ongoing learning experience—We get to blogs toward the end of the term, and don’t be surprised if you find a surge of hits that week;)

  5. Hi just thought i would tell you something.. This is twice now i?ve landed on your blog in the last 3 weeks looking for completely unrelated things. Great Info! Keep up the good work.

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