Beginning with the idea that memory is nothing more than "an angle of perception," Murdock explores the recurrent question asked by writers and readers of memoir alike: what actually happened? Prompted by the loss of identity that accompanied her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and subsequent lost memories, Murdock offers that perhaps the faithful recording of the past isn’t where the strength of memoir lies. Instead, Murdock looks at the basic components of memoir writing and the process of self-reflection it requires as they bring awareness to the underlying patterns of life. This captivating treatise on the corruptibility of memory, willed identity and the self as reflected through the lens of memoir speaks to all attracted to this most intimate of genres, and provides tools for exploration of the self and soul through personal narrative.
If, as Murdock says, we use memory to create our identities, then at last there's an explanation for why members of a single family will remember in radically different ways an event that affected them all. For just as memory shapes identity, says Murdock, identity, once formed, shapes how we remember things: "If the image of the event we have participated in does not match the image of the self we have carefully constructed, then we rarely remember the facts of the event at all." Yet according to the author, each memory, no matter how discrete, has a structure similar to that of myth; beneath each memory is a psychological archetype, such as that of the journey. So while it's possible for a memoir to be narcissistic, Murdock claims, most of them transcend petty egotism; a book like Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes "stirs our collective memory and inspires our collective compassion." In trying to describe the writer's relation to his or her unconscious, Murdock counters the shadowiness of her subject by referring to such well-known memoirists as McCourt, John Bayley, Isabel Allende, Mary Karr and J.M. Coetzee, as well as lesser-known authors. Part One of this study outlines Murdock's general ideas about memory and identity interspersed with an often painful-to-read account of the author's relationship with an angry, controlling mother. Part Two is essentially a textbook, complete with exercises designed for those interested in organizing their experiences as best they can and, given memory's unreliability, making as much sense as possible of them. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This provocative and insightful work explores the role of imagination in the memoir-writing process and suggests various ways to write memoir. As a psychologist, Murdock (Pacifica Graduate Inst.) uses a broad approach to explore the need to write memoirs and the insignificance of an event's factual details. Taking a feminist approach and distinguishing between male and female biographical writing methods, she focuses on the meaning behind the memories (real or not) and links it to an underlining pattern of life. In the first half of the book, she employs her own memories and other memoirs to demonstrate certain writing techniques, while in the second half she provides step-by-step instructions for novice writers of memoir. She also illustrates the faultiness of memory with some very personal stories and considers how the act of remembering may actually alter what is remembered. While the audience is the general public, Murdock's insights into biographical and autobiographical writing make this book appropriate for academic and all public libraries.-Paolina Taglienti, New York Acad. of Medicine Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.