The conundrum of memoir

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There’s a compelling story on this morning: Three memoirs, three truths. Lynn Neary discusses Augusten Burroughs’ best-selling memoir, Running with Scissors, and its impact on his present-day relationships with his mother and brother. The memoir discusses growing up with a mentally ill but creative mother and an alcoholic father, with a dark sense of humor. After Burroughs’ memoir received so much attention, his brother John Elder Robison wrote his own memoir, Be Different, which describes some of the same family history as well as own his experience with being diagnosed with Aspeger’s syndrome as an adult. Their mother, Margaret Robison, says she had started her own memoir long before Burroughs’ was published. Hers is called The Long Journey Home. Neary’s article is followed by substantial excerpts from each book.

Their versions of their shared history do not always align, reflecting the conundrum of memoir. As Neary states, “Taken together, the three books raise interesting questions about truth, memory and the much-maligned genre of the memoir.”