I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you―Nobody―Too? (c. 1861)
Despite Dickinson’s well-known gift for concision, these lines and the ones that follow in the poem, suggest that Dickinson would not have been out there performing the acts of (shameless) self-promotion that writers today have been urged to practice by their publishers, via Twitter, Facebook, and social media sites as yet unknown to me. A friend and writer, Yona McDonough, who knows the poem by heart (she recited it to me from memory), discussed this phenomenon at the reading of another writer friend Daphne Kalotay, who was reading from her new novel Sight Reading the other night at Posman Books.
Ah, so now I’ve shared the shame of self-publicity by including two women in the performance. Does that change the fact that I am being “public―like a Frog–” putting names (not least my own) out there to an “admiring Bog!” Does it make it better if I link myself to others? But that’s also a strategy, I’ve been told.
It’s a conundrum. Poised on the threshold of a season of self-promotion as my pub date approaches, I can’t help but feeling dread at the thought of having to work on my “platform,” my “online presence,” as the editors have made clear to me that I’m expected to do. At the same time, I should ask myself why I think it’s OK as a memoirist to put my most personal memories in the world for public circulation and consumption, but not OK to help find an audience for the book that contains them?
“I know the reader doesn’t need to know all that” (details from his childhood experiences) but I need to tell her.” (“Her” is the generic him, masculine in French.) That’s a “confession” about getting autobiographical in public that Rousseau plants early on in his Confessions.
Every memoirist feels that need: the need to provide readers with details that the readers might even consider: tmi. Too MUCH information. And maybe that’s the issue. What details are necessary to convey the story, what details are (my husband would say) self-indulgent? And who decides?
So I guess that is my question to myself and to fellow memoirists: how to decide what is enough and what is too much?