A bestselling author just told me that my memoir easily lends itself to film or television. (LOVE that!) He was excited by how the families behind the household brand names were portrayed as real people with real lives, with all the pain and drama that money can’t take away.
I made the decision early on to write the story in a narrative style, replete with scenes, dialogue, and well-developed characters. In many ways, the story reads like a novel with a true narrative arc. Hindsight reflection, the main distinguishing feature of memoir vs. novel, is mostly embedded in the descriptions, details, narrative voice and tone. I rarely interrupt the narrative dream to step outside of it and offer an older, wiser point of view. When I do make this choice the effect, I hope, is seamless.
A few well-meaning readers have asked that I make my hindsight reflections less understated. They feel that the narrator should “let the reader in more,” in a very overt way, at each decisive moment in the story. I have chosen to keep much of the narrator’s anguish in the details.
Patti Smith, in “Just Kids,” gives few obvious clues about the intense pain she endured when her great love and lifetime friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, left her for a man. As a result, her anguish seeps through between the lines with a power that a declaration could never match. Smith’s choices of what to share and what to leave out, her exquisite details, and her awe-inspiring poetic reflections on Mapplethorpe as an artist—these elements combine into a portrait of a love that transcended sex, yet Smith’s humanity and pain are ever present in the narrative.
When I read “Just Kids,” it gave me a surge of confidence that I’m on the right path. This is a book, and a life, to aspire to. Thank you, Patti Smith!