Song of Myself, Sung Again and Again
Memoir: A History. By Ben Yagoda. Riverhead. 291 pp. $25.95
A glance at any bestseller list demonstrates the popularity of memoir. Books such as Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club (1998), Augusten Burroughs’s Running With Scissors (2002), and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (2006) have become literary touchstones for American readers, many of whom identify with the authors’ troubled childhoods and searches for redemption. But the genre itself has ancient roots, writes University of Delaware journalism professor Ben Yagoda in Memoir: A History.First-person accounts reach back at least as far as 50 bc, when Julius Caesar recounted his war campaigns in hisself-flattering Commentaries. Much of the autobiographical writing from that time does not survive, and Yagoda points to The Confessions of Saint Augustine (AD 397–98) as the firstautobiography.
To read the rest of this article, please consider becoming a WQ subscriber, which allows online access to the current WQ issue as well as archive content. Other access options are below.
Research, browse, and discover more than 35 years of articles, essays, and reviews by preeminent scholars and writers. Our searchable archive of back issues is free for WQ subscribers.
Eric Liebetrau was the managing editor and nonfiction editor of Kirkus Reviews until it closed at the end of last year.more from this author >>