Memoirs with an agenda (2)

Andrew Cuomo got $738,000 for his memoir — and it sold only 3,200 copies

Political memoirs are rarely impressive literary works. There are better reasons to write a memoir than to create a salable commodity. Most of those reasons are related to the self-knowledge available to the author through the act of writing.

A memoir of misanthropy: What happens when a man attempts to live like other animals?

If you write about yourself, however unconventionally, however originally, you should be ready for readers (and reviewers) whose whole life is based on agendas unlike yours and who are upset that you have expressed yourself. But don’t forget: they would not have had a soap box to climb on unless you had written your book in the first place.

Is the greatest collection of slave narratives tainted by racism?

Writers and tellers of narratives frequently have agendas, some of them hidden even from themselves. Reading about the past, it helps to have an idea of what motivated the telling or the reporting.

Brian Burke memoir A tumultuous life set to ruffle WA politics

Far from recalling the good with the bad, many political memoirs simply try to justify the past. This one, by a disgraced Australian, claims it refuses to justify anything. It is the result of an attempt to be “absolutely truthful” – even if the claim belies what we know about the brain and our ability to recall the events of the past.

In ‘Thanks for the money,’ comedian Joel McHale lampoons celebrity memoirs

It shouldn’t have to take a comedian to lampoon some so-called memoirs. Many such books written by politicians or entertainers turn out to be simply self-justifying or self-promotional fluff.

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly elegy: Right-wing propaganda in the guise of personal memoir

Every memoir has a point of view. Sometimes that perspective gets dangerously close to propaganda. Here is a good example: a left-wing review of a right-wing book.

Celebrity memoirs are awful. Here are 4 ways to fix them

The concept of celebrity memoir is almost an oxymoron. It’s often not so much the truth of what celebrities remember as what they can say to increase their celebrity. This essay acts as if the famous are actually looking for a way to express truths.

From ‘American hustle’ to ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ Why is Hollywood hooked on embellishing the truth?

When you go to the movies, don’t expect to see history. Sometimes when you come away from watching a film when you know the basis of the plot, you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering how much of life itself is based on a true story.

The Briefing by Sean Spicer, review: a memoir that reeks of desperation

Why Sean Spicer is still loyal to Donald Trump

You can expect so-called political memoirs to be deficient in the soul-searching department. Here are two reviewers who were not disappointed when they found this book disappointing.

Life stories and truth (3)

Garrison Keillor said, “You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.”

When most of us tell our stories, we try to describe events exactly as they happened. We want to express some measure of truth about the past. Unfortunately, many things keep us from doing this. Most important are the filters that influence our perception and our memories. Years have intervened since the event, our attitudes have changed, we see life with a more mature perspective. And there are more negative filters as well: We hesitate to write the whole truth because we are afraid of exposing ourselves or fear what others will think of us. We embellish a detail or two. Or we paint ourselves as better than we actually were.

No two people ever agree completely about the past. Even brothers and sisters who were next to each other growing up argue about basic matters, such as how they were treated at home. Memory is indeed a tenuous possession.

No record of the past is ever a complete or objective record. Narratives are selective and inevitably inclined toward a particular view. This is just as true of memoir as of larger historical stories. But memoir does not pretend to be historically accurate. It depends on the memory of an individual (accurate or not), and it is based on emotional truths.

Those issues are examined in the following links.

All links to this topic are included in the Telling stories category list. See right sidebar.

Part of memory is forgetting

Writing is a conversation with the reader. Sometimes you have to let go and give the reader credit for having enough sense to figure out what you are just suggesting. What you forget, what you imply, what is implicit is just as much a part of your story as what you spell out.

Speculations on Lance, the missing inch, and fiction vs. memoir

Observations to tantalize and perplex anybody wondering about whether life stories must be true, in the verifiable sense.

Worlds 2012: Memoir, fiction & truth

Four parts of a longer discussion, raising lots of questions about some important issues, such as the part of the reader in the creative process; the narrative persona; our curiosity about other lives; credibility, trust, and truth; and the definition of “self” in memoir and fiction. Compelling reading for anybody serious about life stories.

Is this man a victim?

This story is impossible to categorize. It has elements of the unreliability of memory, and of fake memoirs (though this article tries to get to the facts), and of trauma and memory. But above all it is a gripping story, and the reader is free to decide whether it is true or not.

Susan Beale: ‘Memoir doesn’t get you into people’s heads unfiltered’

Contemplating the possibility of brainwashing, a character in the M.A.S.H. television series once insisted, “They’ll never get the truth out of me.” And he added, “I don’t even know the truth.” This happens in real life more often than we want to admit.

Adam Dudding: ‘When you’re writing memoir, you can’t trust yourself.’

Memoirists will find reasons to reflect more deeply about honesty and truth and memory after reading this.

The great trap for all Americans

Herman Melville used an obscure memoir as the basis of a great story about a slave revolt. So memoir and literature combined to shed light on aspects of an often forgotten historical reality.

Memory (3)

This web site focuses on three main categories: memory, story telling, and memoir. It is also broken down into about thirty sub-topics, such as forgetting, fake memoirs, the aging brain, and writing about real people.

The links in this section deal generally with memory but do not fit into any of the sub-categories.

All links to this topic are included in the Memory category list. See right sidebar.

The problem with memory 5: Future memory

This essay examines memory as a phenomenon independent of time and space and the mind that remembers, suggesting that it might even be possible to remember things that will happen — to somebody else.

How do experiences become memories?

In this transcript of a TED talk, Daniel Kahneman makes a key distinction between the experiencing self and the remembering self. It’s a useful distinction that sheds a new light on why we attach certain emotions to our memories. (It also gives this web site its URL.)

Memory as a consumer durable

The economics of memories: the more they cost to get — not necessarily in money, but in time, energy, psychic effort — the more likely we are to keep and cherish them.

Pieces of light: The new science of memory by Charles Fernyhough: review

A review examining a study of memory that skates between pop psychology, armchair analysis by historical figures, and current neuroscience.

Your memory is like the telephone game

Another study to demonstrate that we remember remembering and that we alter previous memories every time we remember what happened the past.

The architecture of memory

Our memory is a place. The more specifically we can describe its details, the more vivid the individual memories will be.

Memory definition & types of memory

If you think somebody has a good memory, or if you have been accused of having one, it makes sense to know what kind of memory is being referred to.

Total recall: Memory is a liquid thing, can you ever truly trust it?

If the past is what we remember, it may not be the objective reality we refer to but different for each individual.

Remembering the future

Check Google and you find dozens of discussions of why we can remember the past but not the future. This is one of the most basic.

“The mystery of memory” at the New York Academy of Sciences

If we consciously change the details we remember, is it possible to retrieve the truth afterward? If we were the only one to know something that happened, do we nullify the truth if we forget? These questions are not quite the same as asking about the tree falling without anybody to hear it, but they can evoke just as much speculation.

The human brain, normal and abnormal (3)

In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined “brain” as “An apparatus with which we think that we think.” It is also the apparatus with which we remember, misremember, and forget.

The human brain is an incredibly complex organ, and there are many ways that it can go off the rails. Some people remember the names of the teachers of every class they have even taken, or memorize the plate number of every car that passes them on the street. These may be no more “normal” than are the brains of people who have forgotten everything that happened to them before they were thirty years old.

Some of the following links will introduce you to people whose brains do not function in any way we would consider normal. Others will make you stand in awe of what normality is.

All links to this topic are included in the Memory category list. See right sidebar.

Study: Better memory makes people tire of experiences more quickly

The implications of this research are intriguing.

Total recall: the people who never forget

For most of us, forgetting is an essential aspect of memory. But there are a few people who can endlessly rehash the past in their heads and who can recall an endless array of minor incidents from the past, such as how they felt about what somebody did near them two days after Easter twenty years ago. We may admire this ability, but they do not usually consider it a blessing.

Dennis Marek: Why do some have great memory and others don’t?

The past is still alive for some people. What does that mean for the rest of us?

The man who broke records by winning 74 games and $2.5 million on ‘Jeopardy’ says anyone can develop an excellent memory

By extension, Ken Jennings would think that you’ll remember an amazing number of events if you’re really interested in life.

My marvelous journey with incredible savants: What have I learned?

How and what we remember is a profound mystery, even to neuroscientists. As a result, when we do not know what is in some people’s minds, we should not conclude that they are out of their minds.

‘Dark matter’ of memory to unlock secrets to learning, brain disorders, study says

If you’ve been looking for memories when they aren’t needed, here are some hints from a brain study that might help.

Sincerely, my unusual photographic memory

There are burdens and benefits in an overloaded memory.

The evolution of human memory

The brain is more complex than most of us can imagine. And the many parts of it have evolved at different rates, for different purposes.

Our memory capacity could be 10 times larger than we thought

It is a truism that we are using only a small percentage of our brain power. Now there is finally some evidence to support the claim.

The memory code: how oral cultures memorise so much information

Pre-technological cultures memorized staggering amounts of information. For some, it was their only way of transmitting knowledge from one generation to another. This article discusses these cultures and shows how we can train ourselves to reclaim some of their talents.

How memory works – or doesn’t (3)

Memory is one of the great mysteries of our existence. How do impulses jump across millions of synapses in our brains and allow us to visualize events that happened days or years ago, or recall facts that we learned in the past? And why is that phenomenon more evident in elephants and humans than in goldfish? This is the province of neuroscience, which I largely ignore, or at best admire from a distance.

There are some people with extraordinary memories that are notable either for their amazing skills or for missing something that most people take for granted. There are also many kinds of memory. These are the subject of the links that comprise this part of the web site.

All links to this topic are included in the Memory category list. See right sidebar.

Unless we spot changes, most life experiences are fabricated from memories

Why and how we remember remain a mystery, but these researchers have determined that our recollections of the past are a survival mechanism that improve our ability to face the future.

Your memory is trying to sabotage your relationship

Memory can be helpful, but it can also get in our way if we are not careful.

Meet the Chinatown matchmaker whose memory puts your dating algorithm to shame

The first half of this article deals with a woman who has made a living out of a practical application for memory. She provides a good example why we don’t relegate everything we need to remember to an electronic storage basket.

Teen who lost memory after seizures falls in love with ‘virtual stranger’ boyfriend she couldn’t remember

When this woman lost her memory, she retained a sense of what was appropriate socially. What does it mean to lose a memory? While you ponder that, don’t forget to be thankful for what you have not lost.

Manipulating memory with the mind’s eye

Writers often find it helpful to posit an imaginary reader and to write for that person. This study finds that the same thing happens when we recall memories — that we dredge them up as if they had happened to somebody else, and we are an audience  listening in on the recollection.

6 parts of the brain dedicated to memory function

Neuroscience 101 for people who can’t remember what parts of the brain to blame when they don’t remember things

Marilu Henner’s incredible memory — and her tips for improving yours

Don’t think your story is buried underneath a pile of trash in the corners of your mind, or that only others have the power of recall. Bringing up the past is not an esoteric trick. You can bring it back whenever you want, but you have to train yourself first.

What is it like to have a photographic memory?

We sometimes think recall is all it takes for us to organize the past. But making sense of what has happened to us involves much more than just accumulating pictures and facts. It could involve forgetting as well. To gauge the significance of our lives, we must sift and filter memories.

Brain’s multi-track road to long-term memory

An easy-to-understand analysis of how new memories are incorporated by people. According to the article, you will remember this information better if you read it again even if you know what it says already.

Why you should NEVER drink to forget: Alcohol ‘makes bad memories stronger’

Francis Bacon  that reminded us that what’s past is gone and irrevocable. Nevertheless, people use various means, including alcohol, to get rid of the past, at least from their mind. This study suggests that they may be doing just the opposite.

The unreliability of memory (3)

Down the memory lane

A survey of films focusing on the loss, manipulation and reexamination of memory.

How Facebook, fake news and friends are warping your memory

Memory distortion was only recently an esoteric topic. Now it is getting to be alarmingly familiar to anybody paying attention to world events.

The inconsistencies of memory

A general examination of the reasons why our memories rarely fit any reality that ever was.

Remembering the murder you didn’t commit

We all tell ourselves stories about who we are and what made us the people we have become. A psychologist with an agenda can use those stories to help us or to harm us.

Hot Docs ’17: Memory questioned in “Out of Thin Air”

Memory can easily become a life-or-death matter.

Telling memories

What we remember may reveal more about how we have lived since an experience than it does about verifiable history. Whenever we recall, we fabricate revisionism. This article reminds us that memories change with time, that they shift and reformulate themselves to correspond to our sense of who we have become. As a result, no two people will ever remember the same past or share common memories.

Can you trust your memory?

Implanted memories may seem trivial, but they can put lives in jeopardy. The legal system gives eyewitness testimony more credence than neuroscience suggests it should.

Rev. Brent Hawkes trial hears testimony about fallibility of memories

There should be skepticism about eyewitness testimony in court, especially years after the fact.

Why you can’t trust your own memory

Basic information that appears a number of times on this web site, but well worth repeating.

Myths about memory: Survey details how Americans get memory wrong

Returning to the past for our stories should be a humbling experience, and we should not undertake it overconfidently, believing that we can recall even a single incident accurately. Here are a few reminders of why.

Collective (cultural, historical) memory (3)

Was Jesse Owens’ 1936 long-jump story a myth?

History is sometimes falsified for the sake of a good story.―-or-both/

Respectable memoir, some shrewd manipulation by an East European government “ – or both?

Review of a book by a survivor who is caught up in a clash of conflicting historical narratives while looking for the truth about her ancestors.

Cultural cognition, collective memory, and Tea Party Republicanism

Our individual memories can be influenced by the collective memory of the groups that shape our attitudes. This essay focuses on that collective memory. While it is written from a certain political perspective, it applies to all points on the political spectrum..

European memory vs. European history: A critical view from Estonia

A look at memory as a collection of easily manipulated ephemera and myths that cannot replace carefully researched history.

The passing of memory

The living memory of survivors is inevitably supplanted by historical memory. What happens when there are so few war veterans that all we are left with is the memory of a war?

Cultures of memory in early modern England

Many of what we consider our early memories derive from the stories people have always told us. This is no less true for communities than for individuals.

The end of memory

A balanced discussion that makes some cogent points about how the victorious side gets to define the memory of historical conflicts.

Memory and history

Cultural memory is inevitably muted following an atrocity, even one that leaves all the survivors either mourning or guilt-ridden. With the passage of time, younger generations begin to treat the past with boredom, and what happened loses its ability to shock as it gets subsumed into myth.

Memory loss in the garden of violence

According to this article, cultural, historical memory, is largely a matter of selective forgetting.

The destruction of memory

Cultural memory affects the narratives that guide the lives of millions of people. When efforts are made to destroy the artifacts that give meaning to cultural memory, it takes a special effort to restore the integrity of those cultures.

Memory and aging (3)

Celebrating old age should happen every day

Our perspective changes with age, and every passing year gives us more opportunities for gratitude or for grumpiness. Retaining the ability to reflect on ourselves at an earlier age, no matter how old we are, can be a reason to celebrate.

Why time slows down when we’re afraid, speeds up as we age, and gets warped on vacation

It is normal for memory to be distorted by time, stress, and pleasure. Here are some of the reasons why.

Why we lose our memories when we age – and what you can do to stop it

An article that tries to say in a few paragraphs everything this web site tries to say in several pages. A good quick review of some aspects of the topic, but good mainly as review, not as an instructional tool

Exploring the aging memory

Forgetting is not always a reason to worry about our memory. We usually remember what we have to remember, and we eventually forget most what we see and learn. The more we have known, the more we are bound to forget.

You gotta have attitude

Thinking that memory decline is inevitable, and that it’s actually happening, does make it more likely.

What’s behind the science of memory?

If you ever wondered why long-term memories in older people seem stronger than short-term memories, this article could give some hints.

Superagers with amazing memories have Alzheimer’s brain plaques

For some, a seniors moment is nothing noteworthy.

Column: Memory of an old guy

This essay could more accurately be called “What happens to memory in an old guy.” A clearly unscientific set of observations by a person who feels his memory is getting foggier with age

Memory, aging and dementia

Some largely comforting facts about what time does to memory.

The science behind senior moments

Aging brings its benefits, if we can remember what they are.

Impediments to memory (3)

Forgetting (3)

How brains forget memories through two distinct mechanisms

“Attempting to forget” may seem paradoxical, but there are a couple of ways of doing it.

Remember, remember

New studies suggest why forgetting is an important aspect of memory and why people become less capable of forming new memories as they age.

The man who lost his memory but gave much to neuroscience

The man who forgot everything

Two in-depth articles about the most famous, and most studied, amnesiac of the 20th century

The science of forgetting: unlocking the secrets of memory loss from infant amnesia to alzheimer’s

Research on how and when and why we begin to remember, and on how to offset the impulse to forget.

Forgetting as part of remembering

How we feel about the past has as much to do with what we have forgotten as with what we retain. This essay examines the close link between remembering and forgetting.

Being absent-minded has a big advantage, according to neuroscience

Memories may be about the past, but their greatest benefit is that they help us face the future.

The need to forget

Forgetting is a creative skill. It has its requirements and benefits.

The brain basis of forgetting

A cautionary essay, including reasons why multitasking can create more problems than it solves.

Come to think of it or not: Study shows how memories can be intentionally forgotten

It may seem obvious that you remember something when you try to forget it; the reality is more complex than that.