Procuring books from the library does limit my options. If the book is brand-new, the library won't have it. For example, I'm salivating over Randy Travis's memoir, which won't be released until May, which means my library will have sometime in late autumn (I may have to break down and purchase that one.) So I grab whatever's available and looks semi-interesting.
I find that biographies are much more interesting than autobiographies. It's hard to write about one's own life ~ it's a fine line ~ the experiences that mean so much to the writer will be pages that are swiped by the reader. There are exceptions, of course. Two autobiographies I recommend are:
Some memoirs I've read have infuriated me ~ the ones that sink into political grievances, for instance. If one's life is summed up by politics, that's kind of sad. Others have completely bored me (sorry, John Fogerty ~ a ghost writer might have been a judicious choice).
I've read a ton of memoirs by former rock and country stars, and common themes in all of them are:
- Sports hobbies, from tennis to race car driving to skiing, consume far too many tedious pages. The reason anyone is reading your book is because we like your music. Talk more about that.
- After four or five failed marriages, the artist has finally found sublime happiness with a girl thirty years his junior. Here's a tip ~ that's kind of creepy.
- Illicit drug consumption is something to regret; not celebrate. Even Keith Richards gets that. It just makes you look pitiful.
Musicians who have journalism degrees think their writing is great. Apparently they missed the class on the prudent use of adjectives. Another annoying literary device is time-skipping. "This reminds me of the time twenty years ago, when I..." You're writing about your life ~ was your life rife with time travel? I sometimes wonder if it's a stream-of-consciousness writing style that no discerning editor dared question.
Some memoirs scream, "I'm an auteur!" Springsteen's book might have been okay, but after about three chapters all I focused on was how hard he was trying to be literary, and I gave up.
I enjoyed Patti Smith's memoir and I barely even know who she is. Because the writing was engaging.
Writing is a muscle that requires constant flexing. I despise lazy writing because I understand how hard writing is. Granted, I'm not paying actual money for most of these books, so maybe I deserve what I get. Everyone isn't good at everything. Being a musical virtuoso doesn't guarantee a mastery of every other artistic endeavor.
My advice to would-be memoirists ~ find a co-writer.
I, however, still love their music: