American Autobiography after 9/11
Publication Year: 2017
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
I am grateful to the Drake University Center for the Humanities for its financial
support of this project. The center’s grant afforded me the time to finish the
manuscript, and the center itself has long provided a welcoming space for
scholars in Drake’s College of Arts and Sciences to share their work and to learn
from each other. Thanks, too, to Drake’s Department of English and the Joanne
Brown Endowment for assistance with permissions and indexing costs.
Publishing a book is a wonderful but challenging experience, and I thank the University of Wisconsin Press staff for their kindness, enthusiasm...
The first epigraph above comes from the final sentences of Tom Junod’s “The Falling Man,” an Esquire magazine article about efforts to identify a 9/11 victim featured in a controversial photograph of that terrible day. The picture ran in newspapers just once before being buried under heaps of scathing criticism: How dare the media exploit a human being’s desperate final moments? How could a newspaper reduce a person to a ploy to sell more copies? Yes, some families viewing the photo hoped to recognize the man plummeting from the burning World Trade Center tower, wanting to know...
1. Keeping It Real: “Fraud” Memoirs and Representations of Ethnic Authenticity
While investigating the issue of memoir scandals—specifically, tracing the sordid story of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces for chapter 2—I visited my university’s library to find some research sources. Curiosity led me to the online book catalog, where I typed in a few names I had encountered in my investigation. “Margaret B. Jones,” I typed in the search box. “Nasdijj.” Given that these two authors (real names Margaret “Peggy” Seltzer and Tim Barrus) had been exposed as frauds, I was surprised to find the books still occupying space on the library’s crowded shelves, especially since...
2. Learning to Live Again: Contemporary U.S. Memoir as Biopolitical Self-Care Guide
Citing such popular books as Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (2009) and A. J. Jacobs’s Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (2012), Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, in an essay for the New York Times Book Review, argues for the emergence of a “new subgenre: the self-help memoir, a kind of long-form personal narrative fused with life coaching.”1 While she concedes that some famous earlier memoirs, from Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (1791) to Helen Gurley Brown’s...
3. Memoirs of Empire: Encountering Difference in the Global Marketplace
In 2011 Jon Krakauer, known for his nonfiction accounts of extreme wilderness adventures gone wrong, used his writing skills to puncture the inflated reputation of another author. Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit (2011) tells the increasingly familiar story of a memoirist—in this case, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greg Mortenson—whose book does not necessarily reflect true-life events. Whereas Mortenson, with the considerable help of his coauthor, David Oliver Relin, depicts himself as a heroic humanitarian braving rugged terrain and political turmoil to build schools in northern Pakistan, Krakauer alleges that...
4. Babies, Blow Jobs, and Bombs: The Bromoir and/as Anxiety
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his Confessions, originally published in 1782, “We never feel so great a degree of repugnance in divulging what is really criminal, as what is merely ridiculous.”1 This comment operates alongside Rousseau’s elaborate justification of his memoir, his insistence on sharing the absolute and entire truth with his readers rather than presenting his past experiences in a flattering light. His claim was quite likely accurate when he wrote it in late eighteenth-century France—after all, audience members at his public readings were so appalled by his admissions of prepubescent...
5. Selling Subjectivity: Business Memoirs as Biopolitical Management
Jim Collins, a consultant and management guru, is known for his 2001 business advice book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don’t. This book, a research-based study of business practices peppered with personal narrative, sold over four million copies, appeared on the New York Times, Business Week, and Wall Street Journal best-sellers lists, and remained at number 2 in Amazon’s U.S. Business and Investing sales rankings for over a decade after its initial publication. Given the success and staying power of Collins’s work, one might surmise that his advice has helped businesses...
6. The Memoir as Provocation: A Case for “Me Studies” in Undergraduate Classes
I feel compelled to end this book autobiographically. In 2006, when I was assigned to teach a class called Reading and Writing Autobiography, I was nervous about the prospect. Several fears sprang to mind: I had never taught such a course and felt underprepared; I had never written any autobiographical work and felt underqualified; and I had never strongly encouraged personal writing in my rhetoric and composition classes (for such writing often left me underwhelmed). Still, the course was in demand, and I was a relatively new hire, so I accepted the assignment...
Victor Villanueva has a hopeful view of the ethical uses of life writing: “There must be room for elements of autobiography, not as confession and errant self-indulgence, not as the measure on which to assess theory, not as a replacement for rigor, but as a way of knowing our predispositions to see things certain ways, of understanding what it is that guides our intuitions in certain ways. This is the autobiographical as critique.”1 With these ideas of hope and critique in mind, I will return here to the post-9/11 framework in which this book is situated. Each chapter has been an endeavor to address some specific...
Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 1 b/w photo
Publication Year: 2017
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Autobiography after 9/11