This week, Ben Yagoda’s new book, Memoir: A History, comes out, and I got to review it for the Christian Science Monitor. One interesting thing I couldn’t fit into the review: Yagoda decides to use “autobiography” and “memoir” interchangeably, even though, as he explains, they’ve connoted different things for a while now. In the early twentieth century, “memoir” meant a book that looked outward, not inward, and was held to a higher degree of facticity. Basically, it meant what “autobiography” means today, and “autobiography” similarly defined more “memoir”-ish books.
One thing I do fit into the review is a plug for Yagoda’s book on the New Yorker, About Town, but I’ll do it again—it’s an incredible read, almost 500 exhaustively-researched pages (whereas Memoir is a breezy [and borderline double-spaced] 271 pages).