Rather than a craft textbook theorizing the why and how of memoir writing, this collection reads like a series of interviews with some of the most well known memoirists working today ... The authors also offer glimpses into their writing processes, their development as artists and occasionally, surprising personal details, unpopular opinions and literary gossip.
We live in a moment of incessant self-disclosure, of oversharing as art, of personal essays as a path to fleeting fame — a cycle, as Daum puts it, 'of lazy writers producing material for lazy editors to sell to lazy readers.' So maybe we should be grateful for memoirists, more carefully and deliberately undressing their lives for our benefit. It’s not an affair, but it can still feel pretty intimate.
As a memoir reader I found the collection disappointing. Perhaps the fact that the book squeezes essays from 20 writers into just over 250 pages should have been a clue. Not only does this not leave many pages for each writer, but some of those pages are taken up with introductions to each author ... So who might appreciate the collection more? It’s a good source of recommendations for readers who are just beginning to explore the genre.
Why We Write About Ourselves reads like the ultimate guest lecture series. Not every writer agrees on how to address writing about others, which is comforting. Some won’t share anything without permission, others write like everyone they know is dead. Some change names and leave out certain details to avoid hurting people. Even with the best intentions, though, it’s impossible to know exactly where the landmines will be.