True Confessions in NEWSWEEK

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NEWSWEEK's profile of these two new memoirs plays to the U.S.'s fascination with this literary genre.

Okay, maybe it's the cynic in me, but this shelf of the book store is perfect for those who feel compelled to wallow in victimization. Like many memoirs, these two – and I won't bother naming names – have to do with a man/boy who ran over a female high school classmate and another who lost a ton of money and almost his life to crack addiction.

Why would one write about such things? From NEWSWEEK's interview comes the answer: confronting such issues in such a public way seems to these two young men to be a purgative, a way of forcing them to analyze their weaknesses in a way that allows them to do something about it. To heal.

I really don't have a problem with writing used this way. In fact, case histories  like this might go a long way in providing counselors and psychologists with treatment for such problems. My problem is this: Why would casual book buyers take on such books? One of the young men interviewed here may give a clue:

"You have to make sure that as the writer of a memoir you're not trying to make yourself look good."

In other words, this genre panders to the need of people in the postmodern era to deconstruct the lives of others. And once again, my inner cynic tells me this is a case of "true confessions," in which I look good whenever others look bad.


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