This month’s picks feature two books about memoir writing, a genre which has grown exponentially in the last few years. British novelist and critic David Lodge has produced an excellent collection of essays on the topic by prominent writers, and American academic Mary Karr examines what fuels the impulse to reveal all. We also feature a seminal biography on Maurice Gee and a fascinating look at famous writers at the end of their lives.
Lives in writing : essays / David Lodge.
“This thoughtful and enlightening collection by one of our best-loved and most highly respected novelists and critics includes essays on Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, Terry Eagleton, Muriel Spark and Alan Bennett, as well as pieces on John Boorman and the death of Princess Diana. It also gives insight into Lodge’s own writing processes and novels. Full of anecdotes and wonderful observations, Lives in Writing is the perfect literary companion.” (Syndetics summary)
“An anthology of poems that moves with the seasons, following the turning year from John Clare’s ‘Early buttercups’ and Wendy Cope’s ‘Festive tree’ to John Keat’s ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and Larkin’s ‘Young leafed June’.” (Syndetics summary)
Why we write about ourselves : twenty memoirists on why they expose themselves (and others) in the name of literature / edited by Meredith Maran.
“Why are memoirs so popular? And why write one? Indeed, who are these tell-alls, and what makes them tell? This collection reporting why writers write about themselves hops from the fascinating to the clarifying to the downright inspirational.” (Booklist)
The violet hour : great writers at the end / Katie Roiphe.
“From one of our most perceptive and provocative voices comes a deeply researched account of the last days of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter–an arresting and wholly original meditation on mortality.” (Syndetics summary)
The art of memoir / Mary Karr.
“Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well. For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse University.” (Syndetics summary)
Then it was now again : selected critical writing / Murray Edmond ; introduction by Scott Hamilton.
“Then It Was Now Again: selected critical writing tells the story of a range of controversies, innovations, revolutions and disputes in New Zealand poetry, theatre and drama over the 40 years between 1973 and 2013. To do this 24 individual pieces from Murray Edmond’s critical writings have been selected and arranged.” (Syndetics summary)
Moranifesto / Caitlin Moran.
“I’ve lived through ten iOS upgrades on my Mac and that’s just something I use to muck about on Twitter. Surely capitalism is due an upgrade or two?
When Caitlin Moran sat down to choose her favourite pieces for her new book she realised that they all seemed to join up. This is Caitlin’s engaging and amusing rallying call for our times.” (Syndetics summary)
Maurice Gee : life and work / Rachel Barrowman.
“Maurice Gee is one of New Zealand’s greatest fiction writers. His long literary career began in the 1950s and includes seventeen adult novels, thirteen novels for children, a short story collection, and screenplays for television and film. His work is loved by generations of readers and has earned him many awards. [This is] a revelatory new work, by an acclaimed biographer.” (Syndetics summary)
And a good one in another part of the library:
Unpacking my library : architects and their books / edited by Jo Steffens ; featuring an essay by Walter Benjamin.
“What does a library say about the mind of its owner? How do books map the intellectual interests, curiosities, tastes, and personalities of their readers? What does the collecting of books have in common with the practice of architecture? Unpacking My Library provides an intimate look at the personal libraries of twelve of the world’s leading architects, alongside conversations about the significance of books to their careers and lives.” (Syndetics summary)