The Washington Post
Memoir: A Historyby Ben Yagoda
From Saint Augustine's Confessions to Augusten Burroughs's Running With Scissors, from Julius Caesar to Ulysses Grant, from Mark Twain to David Sedaris, the art of memoir has had a fascinating life, and deserves its own biography. Cultural and literary critic Ben Yagoda traces the memoir from its birth in early Christian writings and Roman generals'/i>/i>
From Saint Augustine's Confessions to Augusten Burroughs's Running With Scissors, from Julius Caesar to Ulysses Grant, from Mark Twain to David Sedaris, the art of memoir has had a fascinating life, and deserves its own biography. Cultural and literary critic Ben Yagoda traces the memoir from its birth in early Christian writings and Roman generals' journals all the way to the present, in which, during a year's time, we saw memoirs from and about dogs, rock stars, bad dads, good dads, alternadads, waitresses, drug addicts, George Foreman, Iranian women, and a slew of other illustrious and interesting persons (and animals).
In a time when memoir seems ubiquitous and is still highly controversial, Yagoda tackles memoir and autobiography in all forms and iterations. He discusses the fraudulent memoir and provides many examples from the past—and he considers the ramifications and consequences of these books. Spanning decades and nations, styles and subjects, Yagoda analyzes the hallmark memoirs of the Western tradition—Benhamin Franklin, Edward Gibbon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry Adams, Gertrude Stein, and others. And he describes historical subgenres such as memoirs of being taken captive by Native Americans; slave narratives; and a surprising number of instances in which one had to pay not to be included in a courtesan's memoirs.
Yagoda's elegant examination of memoir is at once a history of literature and taste, and an absorbing glimpse into what humans find interesting—one another.
The Washington Post
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
- Age Range:
- 17 Years
What People are saying about this
Richard Ben Cramer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What It Takes: The Way to the White House
"Ben Yagoda is one of the most subtle-and entertaining-writers about writing one can find. His history of the memoir reads between the lines-and the lies-with illuminating precision."
-Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars
"We owe Ben Yagoda such a huge debt of thanks: his witty, comprehensive, and insightful 'biography' of the form reminds us why the memoir matters - and will continue to matter as long as humans think, read, and write. This is literary criticism at its lively best."
-David Friedman, author of A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis and The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever
Meet the Author
Ben Yagoda is a journalism professor at the University of Delaware. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of ten books, including Memoir: A History, Will Rogers: A Biography, and When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It, and has written for Slate, The New York Times Magazine, and publications that start with every letter of the alphabet except J, K, Q, X, and Z. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife.
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