Monday, January 03, 2011


On "misery memoirs"

I was thrilled that The Observer put my book on their hotlist for 2011, but pretty gutted that they described it thus:


This year, women writers are lining up to demonstrate that the misery memoir is alive and well. In January, US-residing British journalist Emma Forrest – former beau of Colin Farrell – brings out Your Voice in My Head, a memoir of her struggle with depression. In the same month, Throwing Muses singer Kristin Hersh publishes Paradoxical Undressing, the story of her descent into, and recovery from, schizophrenia. In April comes Margaux Fragoso's Tiger, Tiger, chronicling her long relationship with a man four decades older than her, beginning when she was seven."

The experiences in my book are sometimes terribly sad, sometimes terribly funny, but all of them are like thunderstorms to me: they changed the landscape of my soul. I don't see any of those experiences in terms of "misery". I think the term "misery memoir" is applied to female writers to denigrate women's stories in general. It's all just ladies, moaning about lady things! Silly me for viewing the stories I put to paper as "human".

I will say I'm in great company. I've read Kristen Hersh's memoir, as she is a long time heroine of mine. What do you know: her book is quite brilliant and also damn funny.

I won't dwell on being labeled "the former beau of Colin Farrell"? I simply was not aware! But delighted to imagine the bonnet I wore at the 18th century costume ball.

I hate this description. The male 'misery memoir' would be labeled a 'triumph', while the female version is assumed to just be one long and drawn-out spoke in the menstrual cycle.

Everything on that list was uninteresting anyway, (from memory) besides you, Hollinghurst, JPG and the Lagerfeld calendar.

I'm dying to get my hands on Kristen Hersh's memoir. And it makes me wish that Louise Post would write one too!
Just don't give a .. At least you were put in line with some other great writers.
Blame WH Smiths, and lazy journalism, but WH Smiths are the ones who have an actual aisle called 'Tragic Life Stories'

I always wondered how someone would react to finding their memoir in there.

They even had Belle Du Jour in there the last time I looked, someone who seems to be having a good time most of the time.

Can't wait to get to read the book for myself.
Everyone under 30 with a vagina is a former Colin Farrell beau…big deal…misery is journalists who are so steeped in their own that they can’t see the human victories in these books they review…
Well well well I hear the pips of sour grapes winging from a jealous reviewer. I am ordering 'Your Voices in My Head today. If it is anything like as good as her other books I will be happy. Erin Pizzey
It's all about what sells and what is a takeaway phrase to get people's attention. Of course they are going to say, "former beau of...", but "misery memoir" is ridiculous. Is Styron's Darkness Visible considered this? No, it is brave. When a woman writes so openly, it is too emotional, too honest, too much to take. Putting your life on paper for everyone to read, the easy and tough stuff, without editing or filtering, is one of the bravest things a writer can do. Brava Emma!
I think everyone has their own idea of what tragic is and jounalists are very prone to write a lot of drama and exaggeration for their own gain. I don't take any notice of it.

It must have been so difficult to write about such experiences so honestly and I am so looking forward to reading your book
shouldn't a woman be a belle and not a beau, in any case...?
Emma,I just read your excert and I must say that I can not wait to read the whole book. You have a beautiful way of writing and your words really touched me. I think you are an incredibly strong and beautiful woman.

I just read your excert and I must say I can NOT wait to read the whole book. You have a beautiful way of writing and your words truly touched me. I think you are an incredibly strong and beautiful woman. I too have had some serious issues in my life - and for you to "get them out there" took a lot of guts. Hats off to you.
I wrote my autobiography in 2009. Yes the story is sad but also inspirational. The reason I wrote I DID TELL I DID was to inspire others who had suffered abuse as I had and to enlighten those who hadn't. The hundreds of letters, the fact that it went straight to Number One in the Sunday Times bestsellers, prove that I was right to write my story. If there is a story to tell and readers who have suffered similar lives, it helps to know we are not alone. The term Misery Memoir is one that I dislike very much. True and inspirational stories is the correct term. Good luck to any one who is brave enough to tell it as it was. Cassie Harte
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