Friday, March 20, 2009

Laura Lippman: top ten memorable memoirs

Since the publication of her first novel, Baltimore Blues, in 1997, Laura Lippman has won virtually every major award given to U.S. crime writings, including the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Agatha Award, Nero Wolfe Award, Shamus Award, and the Quill Award. What the Dead Know, published in 2007, was a New York Times bestseller and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by critics at the New York Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, People magazine, Village Voice, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Her latest novel is Life Sentences.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten memoirs. Her prefatory remarks and one title from her list:
I love memoirs, although I have promised my family members that I will never try my hand at one. ("Can I get that in writing?" my sister asked.) However, I'm generally not drawn to the addiction/dysfunction stories that have been popular of late; I wanted no part of A Million Little Pieces even when it was masquerading as nonfiction. As a former reporter, I have a pesky allegiance to fact, although I recognize that the fragile nature of memory makes it difficult for most writers to produce uncontestable versions of their lives. I am drawn to stories about the quotidian – marriage, friendship, childhood, work, life, death.
* * *

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Foodie memoirs are now a publishing category unto themselves; I have an entire shelf in my library full of such books. Bourdain's, published in 2000, was one of the first in the new wave. And, yes, if you heed Bourdain's emphatic advice on dining and cooking, you'll never again eat fish on Mondays or use a garlic press. But Bourdain also is wryly insightful about the inherent paradox of memoir, noting toward the end: "Writing anything is a treason of sorts. Even the cold recitation of facts – which is hardly what I've been up to – is never the thing itself. And the events described are somehow diminished in the telling."
Read about another title on Lippman's list.

Chef John Tesar told me that he is the "Jimmy Sears" in Kitchen Confidential...and he did so while treating me to one of his specialty dishes, King Crab and Two Butter Sauces.

--Marshal Zeringue