Writer Joyce Carol Oates is perhaps best known for the sheer volume of her work. Though like any writer she's always pulled elements of her books from her own life—for example, many of her 50-plus novels are set in her native upstate New York—Oates has never been inspired to publish a memoir, until now.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Oates has completed her first memoir. A Widow's Memoir chronicles Oates' life in the wake of her husband's 2008 death. Oates and Raymond J. Smith had been married for 48 years and together ran a successful literary magazine, The Ontario Review. Surprisingly, Oates went on to find new love at 71 with neuroscientist Charles Gross, whom she married last spring.
A heartbreaking selection from the book—also interesting for its glimpse into how Oates separates her personal and public personas—was just published in the most recent issue of Atlantic Magazine. [Via]
Related in BookPage: our interview with Oates about My Sister, My Love, based on the Ramsey case. Handwritten Q&A with Oates about The Falls. Reviews of Oates' books for teens. Reviews of Oates' books for adults.
The fall publishing season usually contains at least one blockbuster celeb bio. On the radar for 2010 is Keith Richards' Life, which will be released in October. Little Brown publisher Michael Pietsch calls it "the most exciting memoir I’ve ever had a hand in." He goes on to say
All those encounters and adventures we’ve heard of for decades—Redlands, Morocco, exile in France, Altamont—and the people—Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Gram Parsons, Patti Hansen, Johnny Depp and more—are here in Keith’s own vivid memories. The best news of all is how superbly written this book is. [Richards collaborated with writer James Fox.]
Comedian Sarah Silverman's first book came out on Tuesday. Called The Bedwetter, it's a hilarious (and foul-mouthed!) memoir that you'll gobble up in one sitting. Friend-of-BookPage Stephenie came up with some questions for Silverman, and I think you'll find a few of her answers surprising. Here's a teaser (click on the image to read the whole thing):
Have you read any good memoirs lately? Will you read The Bedwetter?
A book deal posted yesterday in Publisher's Marketplace caught my eye—Farrar, Straus will publish the memoir of 73-year-old Kenyan conservationist Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who is known for raising and rehabilitating wild animals such as elephants and rhinos.
Titled An African Love Story, the story will focus on Sheldrick's relationship with her late husband David Sheldrick, also a wildlife campaigner who was the founding warden of Kenya's Tsavo National Park. (Daphne left her first husband to marry David, and this will be addressed in the memoir.) BBC has already produced a popular documentary about Daphne called "Elephant Diaries."
Film rights have been sold to Warner, and interestingly, Imax rights have also been sold. Filming will start this summer in Kenya.
One of the more unusual titles going on sale this week is Three Wishes: A Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Motherhood. Written by three friends, the memoir chronicles their unusual path to motherhood. All three were single and pushing 40. All three had made the decision to go the sperm donor route. And as soon as they did, all three met a man and had a child the old-fashioned way.
Today we're featuring a Behind the Book story from authors Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones and Pamela Ferdinand, explaining why they felt compelled to tell their tale to readers.
As Goldberg puts it, "They say you write the book you need to read; I was doing that, writing just what I would have liked to read as a single woman facing a harsh biological deadline, looking for role models and inspiration."
Continue reading the story behind Three Wishes here.
There's a new review on our website that will appeal to people who liked Running with Scissors. . . or who are intrigued by families that have 14-bathroom apartments. Or who put hamsters in frying pans.
When I first heard of Wendy Burden's memoir, Dead End Gene Pool, I was skeptical. I reviewed Tad Friend's Cheerful Money in the October edition of BookPage, and I wondered. . . how much is there to say about fallen WASPs? (Friend's ancestors came to America in the 17th century and his father was president of Swarthmore College. Burden's great-great-great-great grandfather was Cornelius Vanderbilt. Both memoirs address the dysfunction in later generations of privileged families.)
I think I'll have to reconsider my position. Although Dead End Gene Pool doesn't hit shelves until April 1, our review is available now online. Nonfiction editor Kate Pritchard called Burden's memoir "darkly funny," writing:
Burden herself is a delightfully strange character, especially as a child, when her fascination with all things morbid was at its peak. (In one episode, she attempts to drive off one of her mother’s suitors by dressing up like Wednesday Addams and trying to cook her pet hamster in a frying pan.)
Sounds like we're not the only ones who've taken notice of this memoir. On Wednesday there was a lengthy write-up about Burden in the New York Times, which includes a slide show of her Portland home. (Note the camel skull on her coffee table.) Penguin also released a video interview with the author which features photos of family members in the book (watch the video after jump).
What do you think—is the WASP memoir a hot genre? Will you read Dead End Gene Pool?
Finally, a celebrity memoir that has a chance of being interesting! On Wednesday St. Martin's Press announced the acquisition of a memoir from Judi Dench, And Furthermore. As the press release puts it, "For the first time, Dench writes about her life, both on-stage and off, in a book that takes the measure of both her astonishing career and her private life. " The book will be published in October.
Dench made her acting debut in 1957 and has amassed a string of impressive credits in the years since. Seeing her name on a cast list feels like a guarantee of quality to me -- her turn as Lady Catherine de Bourg made the sub-par 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice worth watching (OK, Matthew MacFadyen helped with that too!). It's hard to say what role of hers is my favorite, but right now I'm going to go with Miss Matty Jenkyns in the Cranford adaptations. (I blogged about the series here.)
I'm also looking forward to her turn as Mrs. Fairfax in the upcoming version of Jane Eyre. (More on that here.)
Do you have a favorite Dench film? Has anyone seen her on stage? And will you read her memoir?
Senator Scott Brown—the Republican who surprised many when he beat out Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts—has signed a deal with HarperCollins to publish a memoir. The book, which comes out in 2011, will address Brown’s “family background, his early career, and his ascent to the office of Massachusetts senator, one of the biggest political coups of the decade.”
But will he mention his stint as a Cosmopolitan centerfold?
Do you have a favorite political biography or memoir?
In honor of Valentine's Day, we at BookPage were asked by the folks at Springpad to share a Top 10 love story list. We put our heads together and came up with the following. Do you agree? disagree? have a favorite literary couple of your own? Tell us in the comments before 10 a.m. on Valentine's Day, and be entered for a chance to win a box of 6 romance novels, including the latest from Christine Feehan and Stephanie Laurens!
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And finally, the last of our "Best of 2009" lists: nonfiction. This year's picks include a little of everything, with an emphasis on memoir—it was a good year for getting personal.
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Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
Lit by Mary Karr
Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen
Stitches by David Small
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
Googled by Ken Auletta
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
Home Game by Michael Lewis
The Secret Lives of Buildings by Edward Hollis
As always, share your picks in the comments. Is there something we missed?