Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

It's the hot new meme sweeping the blogosphere! Amy tagged me, so here we go. The rules are:

1. Write your own six word memoir

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like

3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere

4. Tag five more blogs with links

5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

I'm told this all stems from Hemingway, who apparently met the challenge of writing a novel in six words with: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Umm, okay, so no pressure, then, to be brilliant like that or anything. I went through several versions of the memoir:

Seven states. Three countries. Much art.

Immaturity? I call it reverent irreverence.

I sound my yawp against corruption.

Dude, you take things too seriously.

Comedy where possible, action where necessary.

Drama's great, but more bawdiness, please.

Carl Barks to Kurosawa to Orwell.

Learning, acting, teaching, filming, writing, moving.

Alright, done with that. What's next?

Hey, riffing is my thing, baby. (Damn! Another one!) Anyway, for my "official" entry, I decided I'd go with something a little more, um, abstract:

Oooh, look, shiny! Socrates and Godzilla!

(Click for a larger view.)

To be more serious, lacking Hemingway's gift, I'd say the challenge for memoir is picking which defining moments of many to use, which aspects of one's life or personality are most salient. As Alice says in Wonderland, "I could tell you my adventures beginning from this morning, but it's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." I actually don't feel my personality is that different from when I was a kid (shades of 49 Up), but successive waystations have invited or demanded different aspects. The truth is, I've always felt every person is many people inside, or has many sides to him or her. (For that matter, I also think the best relationships are those where you can show or explore the most sides, or where the other person accepts, encourages or draws out the best aspects of you.) But as to the basic mix, as Wordsworth put it, "the child is father of the man."

I don't know how many other people have done some version of a "Who am I?" exercise (we did that sort of thing at the school where I taught), but I found the most accurate approach for me was to define myself as the tension between different aspects. Zen appeals to me because I can be so impatient and annoyed. I admire compassion in others in part because I can be self-absorbed. I feel compelled to call bullshit, but also like to make people laugh. Of course, those last two especially can intersect.

(And ain't nothing like a gadfly breathing nuclear blue flame. You'll wipe that smirk off your face, Bill Kristol, when your bloodthirsty hack ass is on fire.)

And on that note... Many of the blogs I'd tag have already done this, so if you haven't, and you'd like to participate, have at it! As Glen Hansard would say, T'anks!


Amy said...

Your riffing is impressive and your thoughts right-on. My 6 word memoir ended up fairly sucking, even though I found the exercise really intriguing. But I did go through about a dozen attempts, each focusing on something else. Which is why I settled on a series of 6 gerunds (you had one of those too), because, artless as it is, it allows you to at least mention 6 different phases of your life, instead of pretending that your life is just one thing. Your tension approach is pretty close to the Hemingway model: a baby and a babies death in one breath; the sweetest delight and the cruelest cut at once. One thing that struck me, though, is that Hemingway wasn't writing a memoir. It's a lot easier -- or at least more natural -- to boil down a life that is not your own. After all, real OTHER people DO get boiled down into a short statement. I can sum up Napoleon or Tyrone Power. I just can't sum up myself: I know too much. Anyway -- this is awesome, B!

Batocchio said...

You're too kind, but I completely agree it's easier to write fiction, or a famous bio. Not to mention, our lives aren't over yet!

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

I'm not too keen on tagging.

Hey! That is six! I did it!

Oh shit! I did it again!

Help! I can't stop the cycle!

For God's sake! Make it stop!

Batocchio, I need your help, please.

For the love of all sanity!

What have you done to me?

Make it stop and I'll go!

For rent: my last two wits!

For lease: the end of reasoning!

Help wanted: no more... fucking war!

Seriously! I'm in dire trouble here!

Six! Six! Six! God's prodigal son!


Whew! Glad that's over and done



Batocchio said...

Haha. Poetry Man, that was awesome.

paul said...

"Socrates and Godzilla"... good approach to the assignment. In this kind of thing, I think the tension has to be balanced with a certain amount of suggestion. And gerunds, perhaps?

Unknown said...

I work for Smith Magazine (http://www.smithmag.net/sixwords/) where the six word memoir challenge originated. I've been scouring the internet looking for good responses, and I loved a lot of yours, especially "Immaturity?" If you're interested, you should post a few at Smith, because we'll be publishing the best in our next book.