Book News: No end in sight for memoir wave


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Neither news of fabrication, assumed identities, extremely humiliating behavior nor absurd exaggeration will stay these couriers from their lucrative rounds -- writing memoirs.

The latest major memoir embarrassment of Margaret Seltzer's "Love and Consequences," in which the author pretended to be member of a Los Angeles gang until she was exposed by her sister, has made no dent in the relentless publication of the autobiographical book.

Even James Frey ("A Million Little Pieces") and Augusten Burroughs ("Running With Scissors"), authors of questionable tales about themselves, have barely skipped a beat.

Two years after Oprah Winfrey upbraided him on her TV show for misleading her, Frey finally gave into the inevitable and became an official fiction writer with the novel "Bright Shiny Morning," published this month to mixed reviews.

Burroughs, who reached an out-of-court settlement with the family he eviscerated in his grim expose, now lays bare the sins of his father in "A Wolf at the Table."

To keep track of the many volumes of personal reflection available to the curious so far this year, I've broken them down into categories:

I'm sick, but it only hurts when I write about it

This is a favorite style of memoir. It differs from the "I'm an addict of some sort" in that the misfortune is not the fault of the writer.

"Lopsided. How Having Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting" by Meredith Norton. (Viking, $24.95). She describes her travails with "laugh-out-loud" humor.

"The Two Kinds of Decay" by Sarah Manguso (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22). Manguso has Guillain-Barre syndrome.

• "Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression" by Sally Brampton (Norton, $23.95). Self-descriptive narrative.

Bad girls save themselves

In this appealing and well-worn route to publication, women of good breeding and education wind up in the gutter, then crawl out.

• "No Man's Land" by Ruth Fowler (Viking, $24.95). Cambridge University graduate strips in Times Square clubs, emerges to write about it. When I took a jaundiced stance on the book, publicist Kate Lloyd told me, "Ruth's editor has assured me of the book's veracity [as has Ruth herself]."

• "Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity" by Kerry Cohen (Hyperion, $21.95). How the right guy ended Cohen's life of joyless sexual misbehavior -- but not until she took the time to describe it.

"Accidently on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made" by Mary F. Pols. (Ecco, $24.95). Enough said.

That old standby, celebrity

"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, ($25.99). Nobody lives a more humorous life than Dave as he turns casual conversations and routine travel into hilarity. This time, he does admit, "The events described in these stories are realish."

• "Home: A Memoir of My Early Years" by Julie Andrews (Hyperion, $28.95). Andrews charts her path from English theater to Broadway.

"I Still Have It ... I Just Can't Remember Where I Put It: Confessions of a Fiftysomething" by Rita Rudner (Harmony Books, $23). I often use the term "celebrity" loosely as I do here.

Guys do crazy things so they can write about it

"When We Get to Surf City" by Bob Greene (St. Martins, $24.95). Life on the road with an over-the-hill rock band as described by the over-the-hill columnist who sings backup.

"All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House" by David Giffels (Morrow, $22.95). One of the oldest approaches to a memoir -- buy an old place, get dirty, spend money, fight with spouse -- set in Akron, Ohio.

"Off the Deep End" by W. Hodding Carter (Algonquin Books, $21.95). Subtitle tells it: "The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Mid-life Crisis -- and Qualify for the Olympics." Thank heavens for those male mid-life crises.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen -- till now

"The Brotherhood of Joseph" by Brooks Hansen (Modern Times, $24.95). Issues of infertility and adoption from "a male perspective."

"Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Wall with Lisa Pulitzer (Morrow, $25.95). Wall was a member of the notorious Warren Jeffs polygamy sect who testified against him.

"Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp" by Stephanie Klein (Morrow, $24.95). No s'mores for this camper, apparently.

My fascinating life, updated

"Chosen Forever" by Susan Richards (Soho, $23). After divorce, boozy writer publishes book about adopting a horse, she finds true love on farm with dogs and a cat.

"The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blooming" by Jeannie Ralston (Broadway, $23.95). Growing the purple plant on a Texas farm restores confidence to former New York magazine editor who still misses bagels.

"The Girl I Left Behind: A Narrative History of the Sixties" by Judith Nies (Harper, $24.95). One-time political speech writer fends off FBI investigation, learning about dissidents and sexism during that legendary decade.


Contact book editor Bob Hoover at bhoover@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1634.


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