Memoir, it seems, is proliferating ever more furiously in Australia, filling bookshelves and review pages like bacteria in still water. We are insatiable in our appetite to read and write memoir, to feel the ‘real’. As a memoirist myself, I am all too aware of my hypocrisy in feeling uneasy about this rage for introspection. But memoir is most successful when it portrays an extraordinary individual; or gives witness to an important experience (accounts of Holocaust survivors, say); or when the personal resonates with the universal, and one person’s experience becomes a prism for that of many. A memoir that hesitates to claim such reader-oriented ratifications risks being a tedious assembly of anecdotes, a public catharsis, or mere narcissism.
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