This past weekend an article appeared in The New York Times that wasn't exactly flattering to memoirs. It reviewed four recently published memoirs, ripped three of them to shreds and was complimentary, if brief, on the fourth.
This has generated a wide range of opinions, everything from "About fucking time somebody comes out and says that memoirs suck!" to "How dare this author say bad things about the genre?" to "The author criticizes memoir as too stereotypical in a review where he stereotypically lumps all memoirs into the same boat." (I like that last comment, actually.) The author invites memoirists to reintroduce themselves to "the lost art of shutting up."
I have to admit I had mixed feelings about the article, which at times made me chuckle and other times made me feel squeamish, as if, "Wow, this guy REALLY needs to get laid."
Here's how I feel --
I believe that the following statement is true: there are some really bad memoirs out there.
I believe it is just as true as the following statements: there are also some really bad novels out there, some really bad screenplays out there, some really bad short story collections out there, some really bad essays out there, some really bad poems out there and some really bad blogs out there (hopefully few people feel that way about this blog).
But you can't define a genre solely on its bad apples. There are also some brilliant memoirs, novels, screenplays, short story collections, essays, poems and blogs (hopefully a lot of people feel that way about this blog).
As someone so eloquently stated: "There's always room for a good story from a good writer." That holds true for all genres.