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Posts tagged ‘quotes’

I’m So Hooked On Six-word Memoirs

January 17, 2015

Susan Marg

Following through on my last post, I bought the book. I visited the website. I read lots of interviews with Larry Smith.

imagesThe book is It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs. It’s one in a series on life, love, and trying to make sense of it all in six words, no more, no less.

The website is sixwordmemoirs.com, where, after registering, everyone is welcome to share their pithy and concise personal history.

And Larry Smith is the founder of SMITH magazine. He was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who, when challenged to come up with a six-word story, wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Smith, in turn, challenged writers, even if they had not written anything since leaving school, to develop six-word memoirs. It’s amazing the attitudes, emotions, and humor that pour forth under such constraints. Thousands have found it liberating.

The craze has been going on for quite a while, years even. Schools, churches, politics, tech groups, and senior citizen organizations, such as AARP, have adopted it, but I just discovered it. What does that say about me? And can I say it in six words?

As a personal historian, I thought I should give it a try. I came up with: “Born a Baby Boomer. Still am.” I’m happy with this. It describes me. I believe each generation is different from the preceding one, shaped by social and cultural events that occurred in their lifetime.

Then I wrote six words, let’s call it a biography, for my husband: “Berkeley to Boston. Brrrrr. Back West.” He thought it was amusing. I thought it was spot on. He gets cold watching the winter weather forecast across the country on television.

Smith’s own account is: “Big hair, big heart, big hurry.” One of his others can be purchased on a t-shirt: “Now I obsessively count the words.”

I do, too. I came across a quote from Marilyn Monroe and checked: yep, it’s six words. I think it makes a great six-word memoir: “I am trying to find myself.” Are you?

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Word game. Game time. Time line.

January 12, 2015

Susan Marg

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On a quiet weekend in the new year I went on Amazon to check out memoirs. I wanted to see what was on the list, be it old, new, naughty, nice, or soon to be released.

I scrolled past The Glass Castle and Liar’s Club, both of which I’ve read.

I was familiar with Brighton Beach Memoirs, a semiautobiographical play, and Memoirs of a Geisha, a historical novel. As neither is a memoir, I moved on.

Wild and American Sniper are both showing on the big screen, so I passed on them, too. Why curl up on the sofa with a book, when you can go out and see a movie?

Making my way to the 296th listing on the 25th page, I came across It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. The title is self-explanatory.

I was not familiar with it or its prequel, Not Quite What I was Planning, by the editors of SMITH magazine, an online site dedicated to storytelling in whatever form it takes. But I was intrigued by the reviews:

“Will thrill minimalists and inspire maximalists.” (Vanity Fair)

“The brilliance is in the brevity.” (New York Post)

“A perfect distraction and inspiration.” (Denver Post)

“Dude’s weird premise yields interesting stories.” (Ira Glass, NPR’s This American Life)

“Six-word memoirs leave book lover speechless.” (Rocky Mountain News)

And there were the quotes, in this case “memoirs,” from renowned, as well as unknown, authors on the back cover:

“Father: ‘Anything but journalism.’ I rebelled.” —Malcolm Gladwell

“Shiny head. Hippie hair. Shiny head.” —Wally Lamb

“Bipolar, no two ways about it.” —Jason Owen

“I still practice my Oscar speech.” —Jennifer Labbienti

“So would you believe me anyway?” —James Frey

“The miserable childhood leads to royalties.” —Frank McCourt

I always want to inspire fellow personal historians, so I bought a copy. I’ll keep you posted.

 

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Research Puts Leaves on Family Tree

September 19, 2014

Susan Marg

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A family portrait from Time Tales.

In an interview with John Wilkens of the San Diego Union-Tribune, author David Laskin talks about his book The Family: A Journey Through the Heart of the Twentieth Century. As a historian he traced several branches of his family tree, through tragedy and triumph, from the Holocaust to the modern state of Israel. A third branch formed Maidenform Brands here in the U.S. Laskin’s comments about his undertaking are relevant to everyone with an interest in the lives of their ancestors. I quote some of them here.

Why he writes historical non-fiction:

“To me, it’s the most vivid and exciting and accessible doorway into the past. When you read, let’s say, a history of immigration to the U.S. through Ellis Island or an account of the settlement of Israel, you get the facts, you get the atmosphere, you get the economic basis. When you read about people’s lives and their struggles and their dreams and their heartbreak, you really live the past.”

What he learned about himself:

“I learned that I have a lot more in common with my family than I ever thought… It’s funny in some ways that I’ve done this book because I was never very family-minded growing up. I found many family occasions quite excruciating.”

“I feel in many ways I am carrying on some of the family traditions… writing, recording, keeping the written word, keeping the family annals going.”

Why he admires his ancestors:

“I think everybody says this who looks back at their immigrant ancestors or their pioneer ancestors or their war hero or war grunt ancestors – my God, the courage, the stamina, the ability to withstand hardship.”

How he hopes to inspire others:

“My dream is that when people close my book, the next thing they do is go on ancestry.com or familysearch.com and start looking for their own family stories. Beyond that, to plumb and to research and to analyze their family ties to history.   To connect the dots for themselves.”

And if you’re a “mad, crazy researcher” like Laskin, “you can find out a lot.”

For more of David Laskin’s perspective, the complete interview is here.

For the book itself, described as beautifully written, densely textured, and at times heartbreaking, visit davidlaskin.com.