Thursday, October 28

I’m writing my memoirs, does that make me a character in a book? | Hadley freeman

“I I thought the review was critical and spoke of me like I was an idiot and not a journalist and not someone who has written best-selling books and award-winning articles, ”said the best-selling and award-winning writer (for the record). Nancy Jo Sales on the Femsplainers podcast, in what was definitely the most revealing interview I came across last week. Sales, probably best known for her work on Vanity Fair, has written a book, Nothing Personal, on the culture of online dating, as a follow-up to her documentary Swiped and Vanity Fair 2015 Feature about the topic. In all of his takes on this topic, Sales concludes that these apps are bad for women, and bases it, at least in part, on his own experience: “I realized this isn’t really fun the way it’s supposed to be. sex. Much is bad for women. The guy doesn’t know you or care about you, ”he said in the interview.

I fully acknowledge that I have not yet read Sales’s book. But, judging from what he has said, I gather that he focuses on his experience of online dating, and he did not particularly like the opinion of some critics on that. The review you described as “critical” was on the New York Times, and his interview with Femsplainers wasn’t much better. Interviewer Danielle Crittenden said that perhaps the reason Sales, 56, found the apps so daunting was that despite saying she was looking for “company,” she said on her dating profile that she was looking for men. in their 20s, and she would later ask them to have casual sex.

“I feel judged by you and I feel ashamed for you,” Sales said, and then the interview ended.

That same day, Sinéad O’Connor went on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour discussing his memories, Regards, which refers to your mental health problems. The host, Emma Barnett, mentioned that a critic once described O’Connor as “the madwoman from the attic of pop.” O’Connor amusingly dismissed the description, but later tweeted that the interview had been “offensive and misogynistic”, Quoting that quote.

This reminded me of the rage in 2017, when writer Roxane Gay was promoting her book. Hunger: a memory of (my) body. In the book, Gay describes the negotiations she has to do with the world as “a woman of size”, including once she struggled to get on stage for an event “while hundreds of people watched awkwardly.” Gay spoke to Mamamia, an Australian podcast. When the podcast went online, it was accompanied by this description, which clumsily tried to imitate Gay’s tone in the book: “The visit of author, college professor and writer Roxane Gay has to be very planned. Will it fit in the office elevator? How many steps will you have to take to get to the interview? None of this is revealed in a petty spirit, it is part of what Roxane writes in Hunger. ”Gay described this as“ cruel and humiliating, ”and the website apologized.

These days, no story is valued more than someone’s personal experience. I wrote over a decade ago about the trend in journalism where (often women) journalists cannibalize their own lives for copying, and this has turned into publications. Mere fiction writers struggle to compete for attention against books based on experience on, say, dating (Dolly Alderton’s All i know about love), or motherhood (Eliane Glaser Maternity: a manifesto). Personal experience is considered the last word. “This is my truth” is the mantra of the modern age.

But when you write about your personal experience, it becomes public property and the public, and the press, will have their own truths about your truth. This seems to take many writers by surprise; They think they can talk about their experience, but not be challenged by it. Ideally, readers will have the feeling of being sensitive, but not necessarily, and hearing how you describe yourself quoted turns what once felt like a confession or self-loathing into something that feels more like an insult. Your own life is reframed by others, but it is no one’s job to endorse a writer’s interpretation of your experience, other than your publicist.

Since my book about my family came out last year, strangers have told me their thoughts about my relatives, which never stops being strange. Someone emailed me recently saying they thought I was wrong in saying that my great-uncle Alex, a proud Zionist, would be disgusted with Israel’s politics today. My initial reaction was, “Um, who knew Alex here, buddy, you or me?” But I made Alex a character in a book, so of course readers will have their own stories about him.

And soon they will have their own thoughts on me now that I’m writing yeah a memory, this time about my adolescence in various psychiatric institutions. Maybe they applaud my glorious triumph over odds, or maybe they laugh that I was a spoiled narcissist. That is the risk you take when you monetize your life. Memoir writers must adhere to this maxim: It is better for people to question your interpretation of your life than for anyone to talk about it at all.

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