Bookstores and Lovers

It’s always exciting to read about a bookstore opening, rather than closing, though in the case of Albertine, the new bookstore hopes to revive the interest in things French formerly the purview of the now defunct Librairie de France.

The bookstore is named after Albertine, an important character in Proust’s famous novel Remembrance of Things Past; or now the newer and more literal translation: In Search of Lost Time.

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I haven’t reread the novel in a very long time, and I’ve forgotten large chunks of it, but the ending of the book has always stayed with me. The last volume in the new translation is called “Time Found Again,” and in it the narrator encounters many figures from his past life, some transformed beyond recognition. I recently had something of a “Proustian” experience, at least in the probably scrambled recollection I have of what I read: seeing, recalling, even retrieving the irretrievable,  and in that flash, recapturing time.

Every memoirist is in some way indebted to Proust’s “recherche” as we desperately try to recapture an elusive past, often shaped by love affairs. When I went back to the novel to check my memory against the text, another sentence jumped out at me. The narrator reflects on the prospective readers of the book he is writing: “For it seemed to me that they would not be ‘my’ readers but the readers of their own selves, my book being merely a sort of magnifying glass like those which the optician at Combray used to offer his customers―it would be my book, but with its help I would furnish them with the means of reading what lay inside themselves.” That’s the dream–and the gamble.

Proust describes the ravages of age that befall us. Despite his shock at the physical transformations produced by aging, when he enters the drawing room of people he once knew, the narrator finds solace in the sudden ability to recapture emotions and scenes he thought lost to him, and to transmit that astonishing revelation to readers.

Last month, I arranged to have coffee with my college boyfriend, who plays a small but key role in my narrative. When I was first thinking about writing the memoir that became Breathless, I asked  permission to quote from his letters (some fifty years later). He said yes, gracefully, without reservation, but once I published the book, I began to worry about how  he would feel when he read the book (if he were to read it, which of course he hadn’t). We arranged to meet for coffee. I gave him a copy of the book.

We hadn’t seen each other for fifteen years, and before that only briefly when we remet unexpectedly as colleagues, and then sporadically. Despite the injuries with which time had marked our faces, I felt that I still knew the person across from me as he lived in the pages of the book now resting on the table–between us. What I couldn’t know was whether he would recognize that self in my story.

I’M ALL EARS

As a New Yorker born and bred, I feel entitled to kvetch, and I may have never kvetched more than in dealing with the fate of my Paris memoir. But for once I have something to kvell about: Breathless now exists as an Audible book! (Imagine a smiling emoticon here.)

I’m happy about this venture into the land of book listeners. I’m also happy about part of its backstory.

By the time we entered into negotiations, I knew from a novelist friend that Audible was not always flexible about the selection of the narrator. Nonetheless, I started doing some online research to see―oops, to listen to―the various voices available so that I’d be ready with my own preference, even if my taste didn’t ultimately prevail over what the production team wanted.

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Many of the books in the memoir section were self-help books: how I overcame my anorexia and other personal challenges. Those books were self-narrated. For the overcoming of suffering to sound convincing an autobiographical performance seemed appropriate.

It was hard to find a first-person nonfiction book that was not of the self-help bent read by a woman. But I finally found what to me felt the perfect choice: the narrator of Orange is the New Black, Cassandra Campbell. In the first few minutes of the sample it became clear that Ms. Campbell had two qualities that mattered to me: a sense of irony and the ability to pronounce French words.

At first Audible was reluctant to commit to my choice, and I feared that they might impose a voice that felt wrong to me. Like a good New Yorker, I prepared to argue my case. But before the choice of narrator blossomed into conflict, the conflict evaporated. Not only did the team agree with my choice of Cassandra Campbell, I received lovely email message from the Director of Business Affairs. “As a side note,” he wrote, “in learning about you and Breathless, I read up a little on What They Saved. I watched an interview you did on TV and so much of your story reminded me of my family and some digging my brother did into our family tree.” In closing, my correspondent apologizes for sharing all the autobiographical (and quite interesting) details of his family history, and concludes by saying, “I just had to share.”

And I just had to share his share. There was to me something incredibly delightful about having made this kind of warm connection in the process of doing business. Almost everything I’ve had to do in order to bring about some favorable attention for my two recent memoirs has been draining or shaming. I could not believe my good fortune in the interactions I had with Audible. My pleasure was not purely about getting the contract. What made me smile, was the writer’s sharing of his story, further proof, it proof were needed, about why memoir is a relational genre (my academic hat).

A friend recently asked me whether I wouldn’t have preferred to narrate the book myself. Audible did not offer me that choice and I was glad. Creating the voiceover for the book trailer showed me the limits of my acting skills; nor did I love hearing my New York accent through my written prose.

Now I’m watching Orange is the New Black, the hugely successful memoir made into an equally successful television series. I can’t say that I identify with the heroine, even if we in some way share a voice. But I am thrilled to share our narrator. I love hearing her voice tell my story.

I’m all ears.

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Dream Reader, Nightmare Reviewer

This weekend brought two radically different responses to my new memoir that caused joy and despair, the alternation of outcomes my friend Carolyn used to refer to as the “swings and the roundabouts”―what you lose on the one (the swings), you gain on the other (the roundabouts). Things balance out in the end. In this case, though, it started with the roundabouts: a friend forwarded an email her twenty-year-old babysitter had sent her from vacation in the Dominican Republic, along with a selfie. I could not help smiling and sending it on to my friends.

IMG_8655The message read: “A pina colada and a cigarette in one hand, Nancy’s book in the other, with Spaniards and Frenchmen surrounding me. It’s actually a great vacation read.”

This image of my book lying on the thighs of a young woman I do not know, clearly enjoying herself on the beach, gave me a terrific kick. No other way to put it. While it’s true that the Press had labeled the book “travel/memoir” on the back cover, I had been skeptical about the category that I associate with guidebooks. The girl’s snapshot put another spin on travel: the book itself had traveled, and also the book could be read on vacation. I loved the beach atmosphere and above all the girl’s confidence radiating from the shot itself. I can’t quite work out how she took the picture, but the angle told the story.

There was also the surprise of seeing my younger self looking out from the book jacket on the lap of this lovely twenty-year old; it made me feel, more than any positive review (though I’ve been very grateful for those), thrilled that I had written a book that could speak to women in their twenties today, not just women of my generation, and that “real people” could read and enjoy. I was, briefly, a happy author.

A few hours later, I received an email from a young friend who had happened to see a review of Breathless in a newspaper I don’t read, but which is a major newspaper. She was excited for me and I was too―though cautiously―because this would have been my first, and probably only, review in national media. She hadn’t read the review but told me it was long.

I know enough by now not to look at reviews that might be negative, and I’ve asked the Press to send all reviews to my publicist and so that she can filter them. I need to know if there’s something bad out there (if other people know, and with Google everybody can, then I should know too), but I have found over the years that the hostile words stick in my brain and so I try to avoid reading bad news as much as possible. This one, alas, did not make it through the screening process. The Press let me down. But it turned out that our neighbors, who were away for the weekend, subscribe to the paper and it was sitting out there on the landing―unread. So my husband tiptoed over to their door and borrowed the paper in order to read the review for me. He stood in the kitchen with his back to me, reading for what seemed like a very long time. I studied his back, hoping for some kind of involuntary movement that would give me a clue as to what the review contained. Finally, he finished and turned to look at me, sadly. I asked him if there was anything good in it, and he said no. But he gave me some of the flavor of the prose, enough for me to recognize this as one of those “mean girl” reviews and one that smelled like the culture wars. He put the paper back on the landing.

One of the dangers of writing in the first-person―as a critic or a memoirist―is that readers may outright hate you, your “I,” your persona. A version of “he’s just not that into you.” But what has always baffled me is why, when a critic picks up an essay or a book and feels a visceral repulsion for the writer, and everything she stands for, why go ahead and review it? It always then gets personal in the most ad feminam way. I remember a reviewer of a book about my family, who wrote: “And she’s not even grateful her parents sent her to Barnard.”

Not surprisingly, the bad review erased all the pleasure the email with selfie attached had given me. And being me―and not my friend―in this situation the roundabouts did not even begin to even out the swings.

It’s too late in my life for me to develop a thicker skin―always the recommendation at this point. So I’ll just have to wait for the bad stuff to exit my system. Like a hangover, it always does.

Down for the count? Breathless is out!

What comes after the Countdown to Publication?
The book launch. And what comes after that? Um…? You tell me.

images-1The day after my last scheduled book event for 2013, I woke up with an odd feeling. Something was missing. I was missing the sense of anticipation that had my adrenaline pumping for the last month. Many good things had happened. The launch party was a fundraiser for the wonderful mentoring organization Girls Write Now, and we raised a lot of money. The reading at Bluestockings along with Sari Botton, editor of Goodbye to All That, and two of the authors in the anthology, Marcy Dermansky and Marie Myung-Ok Lee, was stimulating and fun. I had done a few interviews that I could post on my website. Everything seemed promising.

And now? As I write this farewell to the countdown, I can’t escape that letdown feeling. Is this it? My life is exactly the same as it was before the book came out. Friends have sent me celebratory emails and posted on Facebook: they like the memoir!!

The party is over.

Sound familiar?

What now? Will anything happen? And how to live in the meantime? I’ve been here before, so I should know the drill. We survive. But I can’t help wondering what the best way to live in the aftermath. I welcome all suggestions.

Thanksgiving is upon us. When I was looking online for an image to illustrate this post under the category “after the party,” I found a message that seemed apt both for the launch and for the holiday: “I am thankful for the mess to clean up after the party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.” I would not go so far as to say I am thankful for the mess, but I am thankful for the friends who have stood by me on the long journey this book has had.

Oh, and my home remedy for the post-party blues? I’m having my study painted for the first time in ten years. It was ten years ago when I wrote the draft that became the memoir. When I return to the book business, it will be a fresh start, time for a new chapter.

Happy holidays to all.

Where were you when you learned that President Kennedy was shot?

What does a memoirist really remember? Mortifying to confess, I remember where I was when I heard the news of the event in relation to my love life. That was the main event when I was twenty-two.

In November 1963 I was living in Paris, and teaching American English in a ée for girls. The night I heard the news on the radio, I was waiting in my maid’s room for a man I had just started dating to arrive. When he did, we went out to an Irish bar to watch the news on television. I reported the French coverage in a letter to my parents the next day.

handwriting     I hadn’t had time to send my letter when the news of Kennedy’s assassination came over the radio. I was able to follow the reports from the first “flash” to the confirmation of his death. Today the radio has not ceased to talk, speculate, and lament. Even the vegetable sellers are upset and talking about it.
     I myself was completely overwhelmed and I shudder to think of what will happen in the next elections. Please keep all documentation that appears on the subject.

 

I continued a few days later in my girl-reporter mode.

     There was complete (radio, tv, newspaper) coverage here. People were stunned and heartbroken. Everyone seemed to have admired, and more, liked Kennedy, finding him “jeune et sympathique.” We talked about it in my lycée classes, and my kids seemed quite impressed. Different people came and expressed their sympathy and shock to me. Over here the main questions were: how could the protection of a president be so inefficient? And, what was going on in the Dallas police force (i.e. police and Ruby? police and FBI?) I and everyone here were especially disgusted by the violence of the whole thing, and could not understand how such important things could get so out of hand. There still is no explanation and I wonder if there ever will be.

KennedyI had been living in Paris for three years without going home, and working very hard on becoming an expatriate. The fact that I was on the verge of falling in love with an American expatriate made that dream even more irresistible. The man, whom I was to marry two years later, was Irish American. As a nice Jewish girl from Manhattan I knew that an Irish American Catholic from Boston was not what my parents would consider husband material. Even I had my doubts at the beginning. Looking back it now seems to me that the prestige and glamour of Kennedy in France―with his Irish and Boston Irish origins―insidiously made my choice more acceptable, less foreign, in my eyes, at least, if not theirs. Still, in the second letter about the assassination, I introduced them on paper to the person I now call Jim Donovan.

It’s hard, if not impossible for me to separate in memory what I felt about the event from the French fascination with Kennedy (and Jackie) in which I experienced it; it’s even harder for me to sever the connection between my incipient love story, the failure of the marriage to which it led, and the shock of what seemed unthinkable. In my mind, the two tracks of memory are intimately linked.

The replays of the moment on television bring everyone back there, even those by definition too young to remember. The spectacle of the shooting and other now iconic images of the scene, not least Jackie Kennedy’s bloodied pink suit, John John’s salute, and Caroline’s little blue-coated, blonde girl adorableness become instantly familiar, instantly part of collective memory. All of us will connect learning of the event with some aspect of their personal life―hence the “where were you when?” In that sense, my memories are no more significant than belated ones, despite the fact that this happened in my lifetime. That’s how, I think, we remember, where we were when. In more than one way, political memory is always also personal.

COUNTDOWN TO PUBLICATION: Breathless Is Out! Read Chapter One Today. (Please?)

This my fourth and final Countdown to Publication. Wish me luck.

It’s even in two bookstores in Brooklyn. For the first time in my life (as a Manhattanite), I wish I lived in Brooklyn. I’d love to walk by a bookstore window and see my book lined up in the company of other books. A paper object to hold and touch that someone might choose to pick off the shelf and read. This is not the first time for me—the first was Getting Personal way back in the twentieth century—but it’s the first time in the twenty-first, and the thrill is the same.

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After weeks (or is it months?) of platforming–let’s call it what it feels like, masochistic groveling—the book is launched into the great marketplace. Was all the efforting (this is actually a term from yoga!) worth it?  I don’t know, maybe I’ll never know. But I do know I am thrilled that the book can speak for itself at last. I hope you will like what it has to say — and consider buying it, sharing it, and helping me tell the world. And don’t worry, it doesn’t start out slow. Chapter One is short, but there’s sex, there’s Schubert, and of course, there is Paris.

 

COUNTDOWN: “Is it you?”

This is the third installment of my “countdown to publication” for the members of shewrites.com

A few months ago, I showed the book jacket of my forthcoming memoir to a friend. This was a woman about my age, maybe a bit younger, a person and writer I admire but only know slightly. “You were pretty,” she said, with an air of perplexity. What did this mean, exactly, I wondered? That she found it hard to believe that the woman sitting across from her at a café table had ever looked good? If that was really me, my face had undergone a long decline. She must think I look awful, I decided. “Oh well,” I said, “it was a long time ago,” joining her disbelief in a gesture of wounded politesse.
Maybe putting one’s ingénue face on a memoir cover is a dangerous activity, dangerous to one’s vanity, it seems. But who would want to look at my face now, as I look back over my twenty-something life? Certainly not me. Better to run the risk of retrospective narcissism.
There are three photographs of me from my early days in Paris in the book: the cover, that was a street photo of me walking along the quais of the Seine; my passport picture; and another street photo, of me walking on the Boulevard St-Michel with my roommate. To me the pictures are there in order to document my narrative: yes, I lived there, and to me the girl I looked like then is important to the story. I was an American girl—in some ways generic—but I was also that American girl. A French major, a nice Jewish girl from New York, a girl who wanted above all to be happy, although she did not seem to have much of a talent for happiness, but was ready for any adventure.

envelopeThe photographs document a moment, a moment past that certainly was, but if I only had had my snapshot album, I would not have been able to write the memoir. True, the images dated the change of boyfriend, the change of hairdo and hemline, but something crucial was lacking—but, as it turned out, miraculously available to me, something written: a cache of letters that I had sent home from my first day in Paris to my last. In the beginning, the weekly report was my parents’ particular pound of flesh—write a letter or we won’t send you any money (I was always broke). But after a while, the letter production became a habit. It was easier for me to write than to have them send me telegrams asking what was wrong. It was another era, when parents were unwilling to let girls be free and on their own.
Many, many years later, after my parents died, when I emptied the apartment I found the letters in my mother’s underwear drawer. They were bundled in chronological order, and occasionally, my father had included drafts of his letters (mainly of threats and condemnation). The letters were a gold mine of information—and misinformation. I could still remember what I had lied about. But even the letters were not enough. Yes, they gave me names and dates, but was I really in love with my husband to be, little dreaming I was about to marry a con man? “I’m really, really in love,” I wrote.
It’s hard to measure feelings fifty years later, not to mention recapture them.
And yet that is truly the challenge of memoir: to sort and sift through photographs and whatever documents remain, and try somehow to get back there in memory. It’s not only memory, of course. There’s the task of finding the story line that makes sense of each point of remembrance and holds them together in a coherent pattern, a narrative that feels like the truth. Have I found that?
I’m not sure, but I know that I never stopped asking: Was that me?

COUNTDOWN: PLATFORMING

This is the second installment of the “countdown” posts I’m doing for shewrites.com.

In my last post I chronicled the long and winding road I travelled to a contract for my new memoir. I feel incredibly lucky, but, as I’m sure you know, getting a book contract is only part of the publishing picture.

In the same message telling my wonderful agent that my memoir had been accepted, the kindly editor added a kind of warning, or at least a very strong recommendation, despite her enthusiasm for the book: “Nancy will have to work on her platform.” Platform?

I was not completely bewildered by the phrase—translated by the editor as the need for me to develop an “online presence.” I had heard it before. Indeed, I had entered the “platform” world with What They Saved. And shared my struggles with the process of self-promotion (at the heart of the platform) in this very column. I described the injunction to launch news of my work into the vast Internet ether as a sado-masochistic plot. A twisted plot in which I became my own torturer. After all, I was promoting “me.” So why was I complaining? And to whom was I complaining?

DominatrixI learned a lot and even enjoyed my book launch. So this is what  “real” (read: non-academic) writers do. But now that I’m ready for another go-round in  dizzying trade book land, I’m having that sinking feeling again. It’s not enough to write your book, you have to take it to market. It’s time to take out the whip.

At this point in my countdown, I have no idea whether I am successfully platforming, or whether my shameless self-promotion has accomplished what it is meant to do. Has my online self come into existence? Will that make a difference in the book’s fate?

Is platforming even a verb? Maybe not, but hey there’s: Tweeting, Tumblring, blogging, Facebooking, just to name a few of the activities that have been urged upon me and that I’ve done, with a little help from my friendly publicist, who is a fan of Tumblr; ditto for Twitter. (Tweet: Pretend you are sending newspaper clippings to your friends. Remember, like your father used to do?) I comb newspapers and magazines looking for something to comment on. Oh, and there’s Goodreads. (Well, I would be reading anyway, wouldn’t I?) As far as I can tell, Goodreads is a place where my publisher gives away book galleys for free. (A good reader is someone who knows a bargain when she sees one?)

Um, should I participate in something that’s not a real word—tumblr?—to tumblr? (tumble +bumble+blunder?), though tweet probably is one by now, since everybody does it. Am I not contributing to the illiteracy problem in our country? Next I’ll be saying “awesome.” Every week, at the instigation of my web designer, I post a meditation on the diary page of my website, instead of preparing my seminar. My students can just check out my website if they want to know what I’m thinking!

At least I have eschewed LinkedIn (that must have been the inspiration for leaning in, another unfortunate coinage), and a few other web activities that are supposed to be good for one’s profile (platform?)

There’s also the fact, if we think about these words literally, that for a woman of a certain age, by which I mean a woman like me in her seventies, standing on a platform, or showing one’s face in profile, may not really be a selling point. And above all, no “selfies.”

Only time will tell. For now, given my grouchy temperament and my Jewish anxiety genes, a shameful confession: despite immense gratitude that I’m finally publishing my memoir, I can’t help feeling I’d rather be home trying to write another book than out there (is there a there there?) trying to sell one. In the end, it’s less lonely.

COUNTDOWN: The Journey

I’m posting four installments on the amazing website shewrites.com about the imminent publication of my new memoir. The countdown is a regular rubric where members share their experience of that special moment when a book is about to come out. Here’s number 1.

In four weeks, Breathless: An American Girl in Paris will be officially published. So soon, you say, didn’t you publish a book in 2011? Two years ago? What is this, speed writing? Yes and then no.

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I’d be thrilled if I were the sort of writer who could produce a new book every two years. Alas, I’m not. The secret to the appearance of my streamlined production is that I began writing the Paris memoir in the late twentieth century―if anyone remembers that far back. For an academic to write a memoir is a guilty pleasure. And so I only felt entitled to devote myself to this project during my sabbaticals. To be sure, sabbaticals are supposed to provide time for research and the preparation of “serious” books. But as luck would have it, my sabbaticals happened to fall right after I had just published an academic book. In that way, my crime remained safely hidden. Not that I wasn’t punished.

I wrote a first draft in the late ’90s; a second in the early aughts; a third and final draft after finishing What They Saved. That modest number does not include many, many rewrites and revisions between drafts. After the second draft I sent the ms. to an agent with fancy credentials who said she “loved” the memoir. Unfortunately her love did not translate into a book contract. The ms. was rejected 35 times over a period of almost three years, a miserable phase during which fell deeper and deeper into despair, hoping, as Gertrude Stein said of her own, that someone would “say yes to the work. Everyone said no, sometimes regretfully, to the tune of a phrase I came to loathe: “not quite marketable.”

The problem with having your memoir turned down is that it becomes impossible―at least this is the case for me―to separate the book from the life. Each rejection of the ms. felt like a rejection of the life I had lived, in a word, of me. I had to reenter therapy and resume anti-depressants to deal with the wounds the refusals inflicted on “me”―the “me” of the memoir, the “me” of the memoir writer. By the end of the therapy, and the 35th or maybe 36th rejection, I concluded that the book should be filed away in a very deep drawer, never to see the light of day.

In order to get over my sense of defeat and disappointment, I turned to a completely different project. I had been doing research on my family history. Thanks to the Internet, ancestry.com, and other archival sources, little by little I pieced together a missing piece of my family story, the origins and immigration of my father’s side of the family. After a while, I started to see a book in the making. I found a new agent for this project who fairly quickly (as if anything ever happens quickly in publishing) found a publisher in University of Nebraska Press.

What They Saved had a nice reception, primarily in the world for which it was written: Jewish readers interested in their family origins. I was quite happy―the book looked great and felt like a new departure―but paradoxically its (moderate) success made me feel worse about the Paris memoir. It pained me to know that the ms. was sitting in a drawer. Maybe its time had come. Maybe with my new agent I could try again.

I steeled myself against rejection. But this time, we proceeded more realistically. No big deal presses, just small independent ones. At the risk of making this sound like a Cinderella story within a few months, a friend who believed in the book and knew an editor at Seal, urged her to look at the memoir. The editor acquired the book for Seal. I was astounded at my good fortune.

Someone finally had said yes.

Same boyfriend, different life.

We memoirists like to think our lives are uniquely ours, but often it turns out not to be true–at least not wholly true. I’ve been worrying these past weeks about creating what publishers today call “platform.” I always thought platform was something to stand on, something physical to lift one to a stage from which to speak (I also remember platform―elevator–shoes for the short men of my youth), but today I’m learning platform means something related but radically different: the only physical part being the computer screen, and speaking, digital. I thought I was alone in finding the platform imperative disconcerting, even demoralizing. But a wonderful post by Judith Newton on the Shewrites website about the twists and turns of publishing not only confirmed the reality of my discomfort but showed how she creatively handled the challenge. The usefulness of Newton’s reported experience in the crowded online marketplace is not my point, however.

It turns out that I know Judith Newton, sort of, though we have never met. But both as academics and as feminists for many years, our careers were shaped by the history of our generation-―I have one of her books on my shelf. We both directed Women’s Studies Programs, I on the East Coast in the 80s, Judith on the West in the 90s.

When I first read the post―urged upon me by Shewrites founder Kamy Wicoff―I thought Newton’s name sounded familiar, familiar beyond the book on the shelf. I had an odd feeling I couldn’t shake that a man I had known in the 1970s had mentioned her name to me as someone I should meet. I wasn’t completely sure, and I could not remember why I made the connection, so I wrote to Judith and asked her whether this was possible, thinking that this was a kind of weird thing to do. I was amused to learn that we had both dated this same person decades ago before he became gay! That strange coincidence made me want to read her memoir even more. I wanted to see what else we might have shared.

judithI stayed up all night last night reading Tasting Home, Newton’s memoir, a book that has a lot to do with food, as its name suggests. So does my memoir Breathless. But the similarities stop there. Judith’s experience with cooking―as attested to by the many recipes collected in the book―became a kind of lifeline for her as she came of age, and after. For me cooking―the desire to cook and find meaning in making food―ended with the years in Paris that are the subject of my memoir. My food stuff is all about fiasco meals and culinary humiliations that finally drove me out of the kitchen altogether. I recall them with a comic edge, but in fact trying to cook well made me suffer. The only part of Julia Child I related to was to dropping food on the floor and picking it up while no one was looking.

In the end the boyfriend in common was more of a blip of intimacy than a deciding factor in the shape of a life―in fact he does not appear in Judith’s memoir; nor in mine. Still, would I have read Tasting Home with the same intense curiosity had we not had this shared autobiographical accident? Probably not, but I’m glad I did because while the differences in our lives ultimately outweighed the similarities of age and one-time lover, they also made me see the outline of my story with new clarity. And isn’t that why we are so enamored of memoir? Because the details of other people’s stories bring us back to the distinctive shape of our lives when passed through the scrim of memory and revised by us.

P.S. Less sexy but more important and certainly sweetest: we have shared an editor. Brooke Warner was Judith’s editor at Shewritespress.com: she also acquired and edited my memoir before leaving Seal.