Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Second Memoirs

As I mentioned in my last post, reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert made me wonder about second memoirs.

As a frequent reader, I usually eagerly anticipate a new book by one of my favorite authors. Fiction or non-fiction, I am always excited to hear about a new work by an author I have come to admire. Sometimes I am delighted, other disappointed. But either way, it doesn't change how I fundamentally feel about the author as a person. Their books, while part of them, don't really tell their own stories.

The situation is entirely different with memoirs. Like I said, I adored Eat, Pray, Love, and had high expectations for Committed. And for the most part, those expectations were met, even exceeded. Elizabeth Gilbert was essentially the same person in both. She had grown and learned something, but it didn't change who I felt she was.

I adored Julie and Julia by Julie Powell as well. I thought she was precious (an assumption probably helped along by the fact I already knew that Amy Adams would play her in the film adaptation) and that her story was charming. I felt like I knew her. Then I found out about her next memoir, Cleaving, and was immediately turned off. I picked it up in the book store, and almost immediately put it down again. So to be fair, I have not read it, so I can't speak about its contents with authority. I think part of me is afraid that reading it will change how I feel about the author, and then somehow diminish my affection for Julie and Julia. Carolyn of Hang on Little Tomato, has read it and offered her thoughts here.

I came across this little articlefrom Entertainment Weekly that addresses the same topic. It gives a light-hearted rundown of the contents of several recent memoir "sequels". The New York Times also offered thoughts on the differences between Powell's two works. Neither article sends me to the bookstore.

I might read it sometime in the future. I haven't decided yet. But I think if it was a work of fiction, or even a more disengaged, objective non-fiction book, I wouldn't be having this dilemma.

What do you think? Has anyone read both books by Julie Powell? (Carolyn, I'd love your thoughts!) Are you ever hesitant to pick up a second memoir?


Carolyn said...

You know, it definitely does change your view of Julie Powell (depending, of course, on how you viewed her in the first novel). I had a friend who disliked Julie & Julia the book b/c she thought Julie was a b*tch to her husband. HA, if she only knew. Cleaving made me want to smack Julie. A lot. At the same time, it kept me hooked and left me wanting more. Has my opinion of Powell changed? Yes. Will I stop reading her books? No. She's still a good writer, even if she sucks as a wife.

Caitlin said...

That's a really good point about the quality of the writing. If a writer's able to capture your attention the first time around, she probably could do it again. I may have to give Cleaving a shot.