Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Memoir of My Year of Reading Yearlong Memoirs

The Following excerpt is from My Memoir of My Year of Reading Yearlong Memoirs by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Janus Press in July 2009


After spending six months of reading nothing but yearlong memoirs a certain narrative begins to reveal itself. These books are not meant to be planned a head of time and purported to be a report 365 investigation into a subject at this point I have to say that I am certainly seeing a consistent arc to the way these stories are being told.

In the early months of the experiment the author is a little nervous and makes some funny beginners mistakes but soon they are a convert to this new way of life. Then in the mid to late summer they begin to be bored, they start to question why they are even doing this, what are they trying to prove but they push through anyway. Sometimes this is to save face other time they admit they are still looking for something. Then in Mid October or November they have a giant epiphany they humbly share with us. They close the year with some sober reflection in December and on January first they wake up refreshed with new insight about how they will live their life differently and then they gleefully break some arbitrary self imposed rule.

Well, here I am in July and I am also following the script. I am questioning why I ever started this project of reading nothing but yearlong memoirs. I long to read a magazine, a newspaper, even a fortune cookie but at the beginning of the year I made a very strict list of things that I can read and not read and it leave very little other than traffic sign and bills.

I wanted this year to be as rewarding as all the other years I read about.

Instead, I succeeded in making reading a chore. I used to love them and now books are an inescapable vice that squeezes around my head.

When I need a distracting hobby, I often turn to cooking. All the chopping and measuring and not burning stuff requires too much thought to worry about larger angsty issues. I cannot read cookbooks or surf the web so instead I turn to several yearlong memoirs about food that contain recipes.

I bury myself in The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Eating Local, Julia and Julie: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, My Year of Meats, and French Leave: a Wonderful Year of Escape and Memory.

At the end of the month I am thankful for cooking. I feel nourished, sated, and satisfied. I ate new things that reminded me of what My Year of Memiors is all about. This is a year to discover, grow and learn. By the end of this year I will be a different person. Even if it only means that I am better fed and my pants are tighter.

I start the month disheartened but I leave ready to read My Year of Living Biblically.

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