Perspectives on the future of memoir

Bestselling memoirist Franz Wisner is bullish on the future of memoir as a genre. On Twitter and in the books pages of newspapers I have noticed references to memoir being on the wane, passe, and “so five years ago”. But not in this article. Wisner believes the decentralisation of the traditional book publishing model and new methods of content delivery (think mobile phones and portable devices) means bigger future audiences for memoirists. He imagines a future in which writers and readers connect directly, in which personal recommendations and electronic word-of-mouth are increasingly important, and even memoir “apps” for students of the genre.

And instead of railing against social media as a ravenous consumer of everything instant and now, Wisner believes this creates an opportunity for the best memoirs to shine”:

Memoirs are the yin to Twitter’s yang. They fill an enormous need today, increasingly so tomorrow. The more tidbits we hear, the more we crave the whole story. Social media won’t squash memoirs; it will fuel their necessity and desirability.

Having just sat through a long day of presentations on electronic publishing at MediaBistro’s eBook Summit, I’m a little dazzled by the variety – not to mention hyperbole – of publishing technology rushing towards readers. One publisher is aiming to publish 2,000 e-books in 2011 alone. Standing out from the crowd – actual or virtual – is not going to get any easier.

As ever, the strongest writing will be required to stand out. Using the unexpected popular and critical success of Andre Agassi’s memoir, Open, Wisner writes of the qualities that made Agassi’s book particularly successful:

Open is an excellent example of a memoir that takes the best of several sub-genres and comes up with a hybrid of its own. It has the literary feel of a novelist’s life story, the honesty of an addiction tell-all, the competitive lure of an athletic drama. It offers a new path for sports memoirs, and inspires the rest of the genre to challenge and innovate and improve.

I’d love to hear your examples of other memoirs like this, ones which break the mold in one way or another. Ones which I’ve never heard of, or have been wondering whether or not to read…

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