Memoirs

Shhh! The baby’s asleep. Finally asleep. But now I’m drawing a blank when I’ve finally got the chance to sit down and write this blog! (They call it “nappy brain” around here, who knows??! Probably the same ailment that has jinxed my ability to cook a decent meal in weeks. Ah, tsk, tsk. )

Ironic, too, that I was hoping to blog about my hopes of  writing down some of the crazy stories that have come out of these 27 + years of my life and getting them published into an actual book! Ha! No, the memoirs of Maryann Koopman Kelly will have to wait, I’m afraid, for a more opportune time when my brain waves are actually flowing in the same direction again. 🙂

In the meantime, it’s a great time to mention some of the memoirs I’ve been reading of late. Frank bought me Julie & Julia back when I was still pregnant, and I have to say I couldn’t put it down! It sprung from a revolutionary blog and has even been made into a film, which I have yet to see.  I have always been somewhat addicted to cooking/food TV programs, books and magazines, so the subject matter – cooking your way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year – was right up my alley. 

This autobiography was followed up by one that could not have been more different and yet pertains more to this blog – Don’t Wake Me at Doyles by Maura Murphy. I found this Irish woman’s tale on the shelf of a local used book store and smiled as I thought of my old friend, Kathy Doyle, from Indianapolis. Over a series of weeks, I kept picking up the book in the store until one week I finally purchased it, much to the delight of our friend Mark, who owns the store and was probably tired of me dog-earing his merchandise!

Anyway, it is, well, very typical Irish. (The title refers to being “waked” or having a funeral party at a local pub called Doyles.) It’s the story of a woman and her family, from the mid 1920’s up to the present day. It is dark, sad, and sometimes downright unbelievable, yet it has the classic sharp Irish wit woven throughout and it was these anecdotes that, frankly, kept me from closing the covers out of depression! Though the writing isn’t going to win any awards, I’d highly recommend this book on content alone for those who are interested in Irish history, particularly pertaining to women. I think out of all the books I’ve read on Ireland, Irish history and Irish memoirs, this one was the most revealing. If I hadn’t heard similar things from some of Frank’s family acquaintances, I would think old Mrs. Murphy was severely exaggerating – people had plumming in the 1950s, didn’t they? No man could get away with drinking and beating his wife so much, could he? Poverty wasn’t really that prevalent, was it? 

Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been naive. 

A couple of other Irish memoirs worth checking out, if you’re in the market, are Angela’s Ashes by the now-deceased Frank McCourt, and 44: Dublin Made Me by Peter Sheridan. I’ve not read the former (though it sat on my bookshelf in Indiana until I moved over here – you can find it at any charity shop), but I think it was well-represented by the film, which I have seen. The latter, 44: Dublin Made Me, is one of my favorite autobiographies of all time. 

This is another book I found high on the shelves of a used book store, only this one was in Charlottesville, VA. Not only is the writing masterful, but the stories, like Maura Murphy’s, will break your heart. Although “our hero” in 44 is male, his memoir is still tender and vulnerable, told from Mr. Sheridan’s well-recalled boyhood point of view.  Also, as the title states, this is very much a Dublin story, whereas Angela’s Ashes is Limerick and Don’t Wake Me at Doyles is primarily set in Co. Offaly and parts of Birmingham, England.

Memoirs are great, especially when the subject matter is so captivating. They can be tragic, funny, ridiculous or inspiring, but whatever they are, as long as they’re good, I find myself drawn to their honesty again and again. After all, isn’t a poignant memoir sort of a taste of what life is all about? A glimpse into someone else’s life that makes you realize how much the same – and how drastically different – we human beings are?  Kitchen Privileges by Mary Higgins Clark is another great example from a few years back. What writer wouldn’t aspire to record a similar thought-provoking piece of their own history? Hopefully you can see where I’m going with all this. 

Next up on my reading list? On Writing by Stephen King. Hopefully this one will get me back on my own literary horse, so to speak. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Memoirs

  1. I would scoop your memoirs right off the shelf.

    Also, Charlottesville, VA has the best bookstores, doesn’t it? Richmond does as well. I miss Virginia. I also miss you!

  2. I’ve yet to read On Writing, but I have heard it is absolutely one of the best motivators to get writing again! I would personally recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. That one is brutal, honest, and freedom-giving. And it’s hilarious, which helps, because sometimes writing is a depressing thing.

    • I just finished reading a novel in the form of memoir called Flower Children. It was about these four kids who grew up with hippie children. It was very odd and interesting because it was like seeing the hippie generation through children instead of the adults who acted like children! Ha!

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