three years ago i was quite in tune with my inner bookworm judging from a little note i wrote about admiration. nevertheless, being the one-click addict that i am, my amazon shipments have lately included a couple of memoirs – literature i knew to steer clear of before.
judging from how i feel right now, i probably should have kept on avoiding them.
since i never really discuss books here, this may seem an odd way to start – although i am not promising any continuance – but here goes nothing.
i adore beth ditto. i love the gossip. one of my most memorable starstruck moments was when i met her, post-show and after complimenting her singing she gave me the warmest, squishiest hug in the world.
it might have been the single incident that promoted a feeling that i already somehow was connected to her, that despite my overall hesitation to indulge in autobiographical storytelling, that regardless of my understanding of the perilous nature of stories describing subjective facts, that now, here, somehow it would be different.
her memoir, coal to diamonds, started as a light read that i trudged through. the unfastidious language annoyed me throughout, but it was really the structure – or lack of – that became increasingly irritating towards the end. it would be kind to describe the narrative as stream-of-consciousness or circular. truthfully, it was just a messy turmoil with no shape and time-leaps that were nothing short of confusing.
i will try to avoid the potholes of creating a mental image of beth as simple, actually i refuse to believe it, but the memoir's insights offer very little substance with heights such as – and excuse me for paraphrasing – not all people who look like punks embrace the punk mentality or queer people do not all share the same political agenda. the more interesting, complex personal-is-political issues – riot grrl, fat-positive thinking – were merely touched upon and not explained to the uneducated reader.
perhaps a good editor could have pulled this one up from its sad state that was, quite honestly, a waste of paper and time. far better queer coming-of-age stories come from jeannette winterson and, for example, ivan e. coyote – but they happily call them semi-autobiographical.
you can imagine the dread i felt yesterday afternoon when i picked up grace coddington's memoir grace. compared to the ditto version, her's is at least double the length – comparable with their respective ages – and i was afraid i would not finish it. my time is more precious than that. this morning over my cup of coffee, i turned the last page.
it was clear from page one that this was an eloquently written and well-edited story. nevertheless, after a few more pages, i already knew why my literature of choice stays on the fiction side of things: made-up stories are so much more real and insightful than actual life lived and described...
grace was a collection of entertaining dinner party anecdotes suitable for a night with acquaintances; the stories revealed only the surface of their protagonist although providing insight into the world of fashion editing. the amount of dispensable namedropping at times felt rather ridiculous, but otherwise the accounts of adventures with famous household names provided a peek into a life normally hidden from mere mortals.
perhaps i will stick to fiction from now on then.