Dani Shapiro has written a number of novels and memoirs; perhaps the best known of the latter is Devotion. A few months ago I found her newest, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage.
It’s a quiet book, which isn’t to say that it’s boring or tedious. In fact, its contents consist of small vignettes and memories (like little personal essays), which makes this book easy to pick up and put down while you mull over what you’ve just read. Now in midlife, Shapiro shares her intimate thoughts about her marriage, her apprehensions, her choices, and other aspects of her life, including her well-regarded writing.
Although I loved the energy of Eat, Pray, Love, I’m also a fan of the contemplative memoir, those that prompt us to enter another’s mind as it works out the large and small elements of a life. Hourglass reminded me that this is a valid approach to memoir writing, even though writers today are pressed to develop a narrative arc and make their memoirs as close to novels as possible.
It’s okay to write your memoir in short bits, and to ignore the requirement of some publishers to have your memoir mimic fiction. Approach yours as you will.
If you need help finding the right approach for writing about your life or your family, get in touch. But first, take a look at my Testimonials. They will show you what others have to say about working with me.
Jennette Marie Powell says
One of my favorite blogs of late is ournextlife.com, and “contemplative memoir” fits it perfectly. It’s one couple’s journey to financial independence, but rather than money, it focuses much more on the questions the couple asked themselves in preparing for an early retirement, all the fears and worries they worked through, and the feelings. It’s incredibly well-written, and one post is just like the “short bits” you describe. The author is now early-retired, and has a book coming out from Hachette next year, which I’m looking forward to reading.
I guess that’s a really long-winded way of saying that a blog could be a great vehicle for this type of work!
Lynette Benton says
Thanks for this, Jennette! It’s great news to me. I’ll look up that website, and am sure I’ll like it. You know, someone online has been writing for a long time about blogging a book. I’ve considered it. (I still love your blog—so informative with writing updates and personal details about your life.)
Several years ago you suggested I read Dani Shapiro’s book Devotion. It really touched me. I absolutely loved the short pieces at a time style – something seems so profound about it. Now I must go back and read it again. And thanks for mentioning that Dani Shapiro has a new book – Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage. I’m ordering it tonight.
Lynette Benton says
Dani Shapiro’s Hourglass is superb. Also uses short sections, which give you plenty of time to think about that she’s written. It’s a very intimate book. Thanks for commenting Terry!