Sunday, November 25, 2007
Glimpses of Their Pasts
The newspaper clip began with, "Nine local memoirists will read pieces of their work in an evening titled Pieces of Memory II. The article, of course, went on to name the time and place and continued by listing the authors who would read. Betty, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Joe, Pat, Loretta, Ann, Sue, and another Pat. Poor Joe, the only man with a group of errr interesting ladies.
I attended because I know Betty. And I'll start by saying that Betty's reading was a breath of fresh air. Betty's voice was quiet and a bit hesitant. In telling of how she played in the first Rockport High School band, her story was a precious insight to growing up in Rockport about 70 years ago. With a clever present day ending, Betty finished reading. The shortest memoir of the evening.
There was a younger women among the memoirists. While she told a clever story of first high school love, the lengthy details and her repetitive drone made sitting still for its entirety challenging.
I think Joe read the best of the evening. Joe related the nervousness and fear he experienced as a Jewish boy attending the 9th birthday party of a Christian girl from his school. With the subtle humor that only exists in retrospect, Joe's ability to clearly describe his unease at that party in 1950's Brooklyn excelled. I felt as a fly on the wall, back then, back there, at the party.
Quite honestly I left the memoir reading dismayed with the other six readings. They were overly long, left my back aching, screaming for some relief from the institutional seating. And they were extraordinarily consumed in death, disease, and prejudice. Was it just coincidence that these six people were thrown together in this memoir group? Do those seeking a public display of the miseries of their lives find a small town writing group as an outlet? Each of us can look back to times which we struggled to get through. Why do some feel the need to confide in a group of strangers? Do they think shock factor will somehow make them more memorable than their co-readers? For me, no. As you can see, although remembered for souring an evening, they are only recalled as a group. No pity for them, for as the stories worsened, so did the length of time it took to tell them. Drudgery.
Congratulations to the three with the courage to share their reflections on times, good and bad, with a retrospect that was not mired in self-pity.