Memoir: Book summary and reviews of Memoir by Ben Yagoda

Memoir

A History

by Ben Yagoda

Memoir by Ben Yagoda
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2009
    304 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

From Saint Augustine's Confessions to Augusten Burroughs's Running with Scissors, from Julius Caesar to Ulysses Grant, from Mark Twain to David Sedaris, the art of memoir has had a fascinating life, and deserves its own biography. Cultural and literary critic Ben Yagoda traces the memoir from its birth in early Christian writings and Roman generals' journals all the way up to the banner year of 2007, which saw memoirs from and about dogs, rock stars, bad dads, good dads, alternadads, waitresses, George Foreman, Iranian women, and a slew of other illustrious persons (and animals).

In a time when memoir seems ubiquitous and is still highly controversial, Yagoda tackles the autobiography and memoir in all its forms and iterations. He discusses the fraudulent memoir and provides many examples from the past - and addresses the ramifications and consequences of these books. Spanning decades and nations, styles and subjects, he analyzes the hallmark memoirs of the Western tradition -Rousseau, Ben Franklin, Henry Adams, Gertrude Stein, Edward Gibbon, among others. Yagoda also describes historical trends, such as Native American captive memoirs, slave narratives, courtier dramas (where one had to pay to NOT be included in a courtesan's memoir). Throughout, the idea of memory and truth, how we remember and how well we remember lives, is intimately explored.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. With its mixture of literary criticism, cultural history and just enough trivia, Yagoda's survey is sure to appeal to scholars and bibliophiles alike." - Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

"Under the memoir sun there's nothing new - just a lot more of it. So argues biographer Yagoda...substantial, engaging and convincing." - Kirkus Reviews

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Ben Yagoda is a journalism professor in the English department at the University of Delaware. He is the author of Will Rogers: A Biography; When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It; The Sound on the Page; The Art of Fact; and About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made. Yagoda lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters.

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