Saturday, March 14, 2009

Unfinished Words & Memoirs

I was hoping to have a review for you today of the wonderful The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite but as yet I still haven’t finished it. Not because it’s not good and I am not enjoying it immensely, which I am, but it is so good that I am savouring every minute of it. I know I am well behind with the normal deadline I give myself for Richard and Judy reads but it’s so good I don’t really care. It’ll be done and dusted by the end of today so I shall have it up for you tomorrow am sure.

What I am going to talk about today is Unfinished Books or maybe just one, a book that you can’t get in the shops. Last week I went up north and saw some of the family. When I arrived I was greeted by a pile of Christmas presents from family I haven’t seen. One of the gifts from my Gran was ‘David Savidge – A Memoir’ which she has had made wonderfully. Now bare with me on this as it will all make sense in the end.

David Savidge was my grandfather, though actually more like my dad as my mum had me quite young and my grandparents looked after me half of the year, he sadly died almost two years ago. He was only 68 and it was very sudden and he died within seven weeks of being diagnosed with cancer, now maybe you’ll see why State of Happiness by Stella Duffy really hit such a chord with me, especially as I spent most of the seven weeks up there.

One of the things that he had always said he would do was to write his memoirs and about a year or so before he died he started. Sadly the computer he started this on was stolen when they were burgled… twice. Understandably this really put him off though Gran believes had he lived he definitely would have finished and I so wish he had. There are only five chapters for us (she made copies for the family) but they are just wonderfully written and totally encapsulate him and where he came from.

I know this isn’t the equivalent of an unfinished Dickens or Austen or any other author (though I have to say his writing style is brilliant) but it is so sad that I can’t read the whole 68 years worth. He had seen so much happen in his life time in terms of change that to read all of that would have been fascinating, especially from a working class background. I loved the Mitford’s letters for how much they saw though they were under much more privileged background. Are there any books out there that you wished had been finished? Is there anyone you wish had written a memoir but didn’t? I would love to know.

I think maybe the reason I was a little harsh on David Sedaris’ memoirs as I read this straight after and obviously it had more of a personal effect on me. It has made me want to read a lot more memoirs of people from the same era, especially non-famous people. Does anyone know any they could recommend, or just any good memoirs?

5 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

On the famous side of the page, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed Clapton. I had a poster of the guy on my ceiling through college, for crying out loud. Love him.

My uncle wrote his memoir about growing up in rural Indiana. He had it printed and gave copies to all the family. It won't win any awards but I'm so glad he did it. He is struggling with cancer and most likely won't make it much longer, so I am glad he did this.

Recently, I've been trying to get my husband's family history down on paper. Absolutely nothing is documented and it scares me. His grandfather was Polish, but was ordered to fight for the Russians in WWI. His father was an original member of Solidarity and was imprisoned in a work camp for awhile. There's some real fascinating stuff there. This summer when we visit his parents, I intend on collecting as much info as I can...

Book Psmith said...

I wish that my grandparents would write their memoirs. There is so much to their lives and a lot of it they do not like to talk about, like what it was like living in occupied Holland during WWII. Every little bit they and my other loved ones share is so precious to me. It doesn't have to be Dickens or Austen because it is so much more meaningful. What a wonderful way for your grandmother to honor your grandfather.

A recommendation...recently I read and loved Old Books, Rare Friends by Rostenberg and Stern.

Simon Savidge said...

Thank you both for your recommendations I shall be looking them up!

kimbofo said...

I love memoirs.

Funnily enough, there's a good post about them on the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/17/laura-lippmann-life-sentences

I would definitely recommend John McGahern's memoir, especially if you have read his fiction, and Hilary Mantel's Giving up the Ghost.

I have a memoir category on my blog. See: http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/genre-memoir/

John Mutford said...

Recently I volunteered to man the door at a charity event to raise money for cancer research. The woman throwing the event was also selling memoirs written by her mom (who'd died of cancer) and asked if I could take money for those along with the cover charge. Of course, in between people coming in I had to pick it up and read it and I was quite enjoying it. Unfortunately, though I'd purchased my own copy, I forgot it when I left though I'd not finished it. Your post is a perfect reminder to try and get the book back. Thanks!