Ah, mothers. Where would the memoir world be without them?
Fathers do enter into it, yes. But mothers provide the richest mine of memoir gold. Shaft after shaft, angst-filled justification for personal unfullfilments and failings. Narcissist moms. Addict moms. Constructively incestual moms. Oversharer moms and undersharer moms.
It's the new momoir.
In its profusion, and unsparing detail, the literary equivalent of reality TV. Battalions of momoir-daughters--they tend to be the daughters--breathtakingly baring souls and settling scores. And, scoring financially.
Presumably, their children will go on to write about them, and down through the generations the Mother’s Curse will live on: "One day, it'll be your turn. You'll know what it's like. You'll get the old-country saying: 'Do you need to have children? Better gallstones.'"
A protocol has been to wait till mom dies, or goes gaga, before letting it all hang out. At which point it's fine to announce, as does a momoirist of the hour: "I'm Glad My Mom Died."
But this season, the international momoir sensation is Canadian, over a daughter who decided to strike while the mommy-iron was still hot. Alive and still kicking back.
It's the Leah-and-Cessie show--the high-profile double-journalist daughter-mother duo noisily at odds over daughter's newly published tell-all.
Daughter Leah, who is also flogging a new internet newsletter, is renowned for using everything in and remotely of her own life as fodder--from the ex-husband to whom she took a knife in Toronto Life magazine, to her own drunken-guest breastfeeding stint (described in one UK review as "the-creepy-Canadian-journalist-who-tried-to-breastfeed-a-stranger's-baby-at-a-party").
Although potentially rivalling Barbara, Baroness Black, in the fine art of sensational self-mining, perhaps Leah had temporarily run out of material when she decided to turn to momoir.
What a publicity goldmine was unearthed. Aggrieved journalist-mother Cessie immediately weighed in with accusations of story-appropriation, daughter allegedly having stolen juicy bits mother had always meant to write.
My email had somewhat inexplicably sprouted an invitation to subscribe to the daughterly newsletter, so I was treated to an excerpt from her momoir. Others followed in the media, as well as excerpts from mom's counterattack.
From the excerpts, neither their travails nor their world seemed particularly intriguing or even interesting; more Sturm than Drang --though I admit I never had a riding master, nor an acid-fuelled threesome at age 14.
Anyway, these days, doesn't every family have at least one would-be momoirist?
In our family, it happened to be a son.
Of four siblings, two of us loved our one of a kind over the top mother, and two hated her. I'm the only one left who loved her.
The momoirist wannabe, the one who professed to hate her the most, was her favourite, the onetime family golden boy.
He had rejected her reach-outs for years. Cut her off when she phoned, weeping, to try to tell him of her fatal illness.
But when I called to tell him she had died, he said, "You knew she was dying and you didn't tell me, so I could come settle my scores with her?" And: "Am I in her will?"
Right up to his death, 25 years after hers, he inflated and attempted unsuccessfully to peddle his momoir of charges against her for the failure of his life.
And, oh yes: For not including him in her will.
Material for quite a bromoir, should I ever manage to write it.
My own son has a fine stock of momoir fodder. I can just imagine it. Mom, mis-stepping multiple marrier. Dad, who disappeared when his baby was born, became a psychoanalyst, and raised a second family that had no idea about the first.
Then, an ex-stepfather whose vindictiveness knew no bounds...
There, son. I’ve appropriated your story. Nya-nya, nya-nya.