There is a popular misconception that the memoir genre is self-indulgent. By definition, a memoir is about the self, but good memoirs connect a personal experience – be it substance abuse, a loss, or some other tragedy – with the larger human experience. You may never have experienced drug abuse, but the author could write her story in such a way that you identify with the feelings of loneliness that lead to her drug use. The narrative pulls you in the same way a novel would.
I’m generalizing here, but celebrity memoirs don’t do that. They are the very definition of navel-gazing, and it’s giving the entire genre a bad name.
“Celebrity” is a very broad term, but here are a few reasons I think they tend to suck:
They tend to be ghost-written
‘Nough said there. What’s a memoir if not written in an authentic voice? That ruins it for me.
The subject is painted like a know-it-all
This is more common among Christian celebrity preachers: “Let Joyce Meyer show you how to persevere through difficult times.” “Let Joel Osteen show you how to reap God’s blessings for your life.” There are very few things I’ll ever call myself an expert in, because then there’s this expectation to perform that skill perfectly, and who does anything perfectly? Especially when it comes to faith?
When I write about faith, I write from a clearly biased perspective (though all memoirs are biased in their own way). Take whatever I write with a grain of salt. Take it with a dose of consideration, if you think it’s deserving. But for God’s sake, don’t take it as expert. I’m just one voice out of millions who thinks she has something worthwhile to say, but I’m still young, and could be talking out of my ass without realizing it. Twenty years from now I might cringe at Confessions and wish I waited, but I hope I never regret publishing it because of what it meant to me at the time.
The covers might as well be magazine covers
What’s more self-indulgent than a glamour shot with pearly-white teeth as big as my thumb nail? Is anyone else creeped out by book covers that stare at you from across the room? I don’t like sitting in Starbucks feeling like another patron’s book cover is watching me.
But the thing that annoys me most is the drive to dominate as many outlets as possible to make the most money, simply because they can. Not because they have a story to tell. Too often, a celebrity trying to write a book is like a tone-deaf person auditioning for American Idol – and becoming an idol of tabloid worship matters more than the art of storytelling.
“I believe there is hope for us all, even amid the suffering – and maybe even inside the suffering. And that’s why I write fiction, probably. It’s my attempt to keep that fragile strand of radical hope, to build a fire in the darkness.”
– John Green