People criticize memoir for being “easy,” and I've heard it said that memoirists are narcissistic or compulsive oversharers. Of course I tend to disagree. What would we lose without the genre?
Beth Kephart: We would lose authenticity. Fiction glamorizes or reduces or fantasizes, or can tell a story as close to realism as possible, but there’s something that can get lost. I don’t want to suggest that I don’t believe fiction and poetry and cinema and dance and photography can’t achieve what memoir does, but we’d lose one of the vehicles of authenticity if we lost memoir.
Why do you think memoir gets a bad rap?
The popularity of the [...]
TLC is one of the best-selling girl groups of all time, second only to the Spice Girls. They have sold 65 million albums, clocked 10 top-ten Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B singles (bested in girl-group zone only by Destiny's Child), and changed so many of their fans' lives they had to drop an entire album essentially responding to the buckets of inspirational letters they were receiving about it. (Fanmail, you know—"I get lonely tooooo.") Their personal style and spiritual estiílo totally altered the culture; they popularized Cross Colours clothing to a mainstream audience, condoms as accessory (and, by extension, sexual empowerment and maturity), and fused rap and R&B when the twain [...]
My nephew, a recent graduate from George Washington University, owes $80,000 at an interest rate of 10 percent. At 22, he now lives with his parents, sleeps in his childhood bedroom, and works full-time as a customer representative in a call center at one of the few thriving companies in our hometown. His plan is to live with his parents and send all of the money he makes after taxes to Citibank, his lender. “It’ll take a few years,” he says, exhaling chain smoke.
“How many?” I ask.
“I don’t know, a few.”
Just to give you a sense of how difficult it is to manage that level of debt, [...]
Stoner’s Coin Op Laundry is on the corner of Wahsatch Avenue and St. Vrain Street in downtown Colorado Springs. The white stucco building was built in 1904 and was, until 1958, the Ideal Grocery & Market; city directories note that it was vacant the following year. In 1960 it appears as Roy C. & Mrs. Betty Mason’s Econo Wash Self Serve, on a line next to entries that indicate that this woman is the “wid” of “Chas Wm,” and that this man is a “linemn” for the “Tel Co.” The 1975 directory has it under the surname “Stoner.” Some patrons swear it is a laundromat for [...]
Every morning, when the massive, black iron gates open, I jog past the ragged stonewalls towards the old mausoleums. I jump over tombstones and weave past undertakers. Western Queens doesn’t have a big park with old trees and ponds; what we do have is Calvary Cemetery, America’s largest graveyard. Wedged between the Brooklyn-Queens and the Long Island Expressways and carelessly dissected into four jagged parts, Calvary borders Sunnyside, Woodside, and Maspeth. With more than three million burials, it is big enough to accommodate my lifelong fears of death and dying, of seeing too much without being seen.
I am an Anxious Person. I am Anxiety. Give me a cold, and [...]
As soon as I enter the Nashville Whiskey Festival, I start looking for a way out. I'm already dehydrated and surly—my walk here ended up taking a half hour longer than I thought it would, and involved clambering under a highway, over train tracks, and through a neighborhood of barbed wire fences and flickering-light warehouses. All I want to do is sit down, chug some water, and plan out my next 10 drinks.
Instead, I enter a loud, narrow room, lined with tables on the perimeter. I find a palette of bottled water and snag one—they're tucked off to the side, at least 10 feet from the complimentary food, so [...]