Saturday, April 28, 2007

We Did It For a Year

Not having had an even slightly memoir-worthy life, I've felt, as a writer, somewhat ripped off. But lately I've discovered that I don't need a whole interesting life -- all I need is one really cool year! The bookstore where I work is all of a sudden full of memoirs about people dedicating a single year to one extreme idea. Surely, I can think of something to spend the next year doing...

For instance: a couple of Canadians decided to spend a year eating only food produced within 100 miles of their house (see Plenty). Barbara Kingsolver, in a book coming out next week, went a step further: she moved from Arizona to West Virginia in order to spend a year growing her own food. No Impact Man doesn't have a book yet, but he does have a contract for one -- it will describe his year spent living in the city while creating as little trash and environmental impact as possible. And earlier this year Judith Levine published Not Buying It, about her year of not shopping. Worthy projects all!

But I can't help but wonder if they would have gotten the same kind of book deal if they'd said, Well, I'm just going to start buying less crap, or, Now I'm moving to the country and I'll be spending the next few years chopping the heads off my chickens! Because you know, and I know, that each of these books must end with a similar sentiment: Though my year of ________ is over, it has changed me forever, and I'll never fully go back to my unenlightened ways.

There's something very American, very New Year's Resolutiony, about putting on the virtuous hairshirt, just for a little while. If you changed your whole life forever, it would be like you thought you were better than everyone else.

1 comment:

5 Red Pandas said...

After reading about a crop of inner city teacher memoirs I'm starting to think that Teach For America and NYC Teaching Fellows are going to start making people sign non-disclosure agreements. No more book contracts for all you failed teachers! (Maybe I'm just jealous I didn't try to cash in on my own misery.)

It's kind of like bloggers getting book contracts, just because they had blogs- it's a fad that will end and the industry will have lost more money than it gained. These one year memoirs are like the books about ONE SUBJECT that ruled a few years back. Maybe Americans just love minutia. I think I have a book on my shelf devoted entirely to the penis.