I am reading a really good memoir right now by Abi Morgan called This Is Not A Pity Memoir. What I like about it is that it’s not linear, it feels scattered, as someone might think. And it’s emotive and funny and interesting and sad, all in one. I am reading memoirs because I am writing one myself, and am looking for ways to approach it.
I looked up the definition of memoir and I like the second definition:
2. an essay on a learned subject.
"an important memoir on Carboniferous crustacea"
I’m not going to write about carboniferous crustacea. But I will write about stuff I’ve learned and am still learning. The subject I’ve learned—and am learning— is me, but more specifically: drawing, cartoons, shyness, self esteem, birding, taking risks, alcoholics anonymous, juvenille deliquency, basil pesto, dogs, cats, marriage, kids, The New Yorker, etc….
Stuff like that.
It’s scary. And I’m realizing that I need to push and not just report the basic. It’s not worth it for people if I just skim the surface.
Here is one of my first entries.
My father always claimed that I was born in the same hospital that James Thurber died in.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. Family lore has it that I was drawing very early, and remembering when I would question my parents about it, one could almost sense a degree of, “she’s got promise.” What I didn’t have promise in was reading or school work, and that was noticed early, too. I was incredibly shy. But being a budding artist, I was cut some slack I think, until fifth grade when I was put in a special class for kids who wouldn't or couldn’t read. I don’t think anyone considered I might have dyslexia, and I never found out if I do.
I was getting praise for drawing, and at some point early in my youth, I discovered a hardcover book of cartoons by Crocket Johnson, called Barnaby. I think it was a collection of comic strips he had done. I held the book in my hands and felt I was doing what I was supposed to: reading a book.
Cartoons were mine. Anything that had to do with line drawing I considered were done for me specifically. Crocket Johnson, E.M Shephard, Dr. Seuss, Peanuts were “my department,” and I considered myself an audience of one. In my mind, I was the only one who really appreciated these drawings….
Growing up, she (my mother) clipped out spot drawings from The New Yorker and put them in an little white envelope for me. The magazine doesn’t really have those anymore, but they were ubiquitous at one point, dotted around the magazine between the words and cartoons. My mother thought perhaps her clippings would inspire me to do that someday. Little did she know I would become not just a spot artist, a cartoonist.
She never found out I did.
Starting in September, thoughts or drawings on this particular project— “memoir thinking”—will be for paid subscribers.
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