1. Ready for Air by Kate Hopper
2. The River Lock: One Boy's Life Along the Mohawk by Stephen Haven
3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The difference in style between these three writer's is quite distinct. Kate's tale is full of worry and compassion for her child. Stephen Haven's tale is almost colloquial--he writes like a teenager (which he is in many of the passages) and full of energy but blunt. Joan Didion is lyrical and full of grief, her theme for her memoir and quite a useful guide for any spouse. Since he translates Chinese poetry and writes poetry, I've read some of his poetry, too, and the difference between his memoir voice and his poetry voice is quite distinct. In the memoir, he tends to be quite gritty, while in his poetry, he is more thoughtful and expansive and poetic.
I've also looked thematically for memoirs that match my main theme of drug and alcohol addiction, families, and mental health. But that is all about content, not necessarily about quality and style. I won't say much about these since I address them at other times.
So then I thought I should read memoirs about writers and writing and poets on writing. This proved a good bet. Selections I found include:
1. Pablo Neruda "Memoirs"
2. Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry Phillips
3. Mentor: A Memoir by Tom Grimes
4. (I previously read Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of Craft" and found his tale of fanaticism and drug use in order to produce quite poignant and a good warning for all writers).
I especially liked the travel portions and descriptions of Pablo Neruda's experiences as a poet and his strong belief his poetry made a difference. Pablo Neruda's prose also becomes quite beautiful and poetic. He also tends to be a name dropper explaining key points of contact in his life and how it related to the world. From him, I picked up quite a list of South and Central American poets and authors which will add to my knowledge of the regional issues.
I liked Ernest Hemingway's blunt answers to questions shown in his letters. The book quotes from his personal writing to friends and other contacts. His reminders that one must work without applause and stay on your goals is important to remember.
Tom Grimes tale about how a mentor pulled him through his writing with his praise and then the way his books were purchased and then didn't do as well as he had hoped is a potent reminder that writing is always an expensive gamble for the writer and the publisher.
After these three writer's tales, I need to question my own memoir writing to identify what I think has most value, my travel experience, my writing experience, my poetic need for beauty and meaning, or simply my initial plan of a family tale. I feel a great need to say, I'm not dead yet, I don't want to be summarizing my life, yet.
Since I'm traveling to Nicaragua and to France this year, I've found some good selections of books to enhance my experience in these countries.
1. The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli
2. Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea by Sergio Ramirez using Michael Miller's translation
and as usual I look for folk tales, contemporary literature, contemporary poetry, and histories such as:
1. Sandino's Nation by Stephen Henighan
2. France Since 1870 by Charles Sowerwine
These latter two are some 700 and 400 words so they will be work to get through. I feel I am reading more Communist oriented literature for which I have little leaning since I tend to be more independent-minded and like freedom and the dream of an open economy if it ever exists. I was in the IAM, airplane mechanics union, a member of the AFL-CIO during my years of work at Boeing in the factory and as a Boeing employee in the professional computing ranks, we received similar terms in our contracts. So while I understand the need for worker solidarity, I prefer a more democratic society implementation of government.