The memoir, having no beginning, middle or end, is a mash up. You could argue that this confusion is not the writer’s fault, but a matter of the memoir taking itself too seriously. Such convolutions! You would think the memoirist a famous politician or actor or artist and not just a 70 year old woman who has occasionally been well known for short periods of time. This “memoir” is more vine than book, winding around itself in complex knots, sprouting a jungle of unnecessary offshoots, and suffocating its root system on the way toward a small patch of sunlight which, after two years of steady work, remains too distant to make any difference.
Sadly, as is so often the case with poorly organized memoirs, the problem is more easily diagnosed than solved. For starters there are too many stories, the majority of them incomplete and vaguely mysterious, while the remaining lot, though able to manage a loose connection with one another, are incapable of becoming part of a greater whole. Where is the team work, the sensitivity necessary for a finely wrought lifework? Your problem (Mom: “You never finish anything!”) is a lack of discipline. Things get a little tough and off you go. No sticktoittiveness. Your memoir has unsecured borders, unwanted refugees arrive daily and your overburdened infrastructure cannot support them.
Case in point: A story you thought you had forgotten. Here it comes! It is a sad remembrance but it arrives with color and form and clarity. You marvel at the workings of the human mind, your mind, and how it was able to misplace a story as vivid and pure as the vase of lilies on the kitchen table. Thrilled for this unbidden piece of your life, you record it in one short rush. It is entirely willing, pouring itself onto the page like hot oil over pasta. You can taste this story; others will too. You know this to be true because you know the best stories are universal. The best stories let you cry.
But the story about this story of a little girl’s death ends as sadly as the little girl’s life. There is no home for it in the memoir; no paragraph, no page, will accept it. Already crowded with old friends and neighbors and husbands and family feuds and births and deaths and weddings and court rooms and odd vacations and coincidences which could not possibly have happened unless the world is quite different than anyone has imagined, this memoir cannot squeeze in Karen’s short happy-sad strawberry blonde life.