WriPaMyMeNo, Day 28: Revenge, Revisited

Write Part of My MemoirWelcome to the 28th day of my soon-to-be completed memoir challenge, wherein I revisit the question of revenge as a motive for writing a memoir.

The other day I quoted a passage from Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir: “If you want revenge,” Karr wrote, “hire a lawyer…Literature’s for something else: the reader.”

Being a fan of revenge writing, I took issue with that assessment. But I believe Karr and I might just differ on definition and depth.

Revenge in small quantities

If my entire memoir were devoted to taking revenge on someone, that might indeed be a problem. No one’s enemies are all that interesting to other people unless they’re monsters, in which case you’re entering the realm of police procedural or thriller. But within the narrative arc of my story, my growth and development as a writer, I see nothing wrong with drawing damning portraits of those who put obstacles in my path — when they’re deserved.

Relatable revenge

Those obstacle posers are real people in my life and I hope to capture them in their specificity, but they also tend to be general types that people encounter. It’s not just my bad boss in a publishing company who is getting his due in my book, or the mean co-worker at the newspaper where I worked: It’s every bad Boss and Co-worker. Who doesn’t like to see surrogates of their nemeses skewered?

Consciousness raising more than vengeance

Maybe revenge is too narrow a term for what I hope to accomplish with a couple of my characterizations. I have in mind two well-known writers who had a tendency to treat women of a certain age as though we were invisible; they talked only to other men or younger women. My cameos of them might make those who prejudge people based solely on gender and age think twice.  You ignore others at the peril of turning up in their memoirs.

But that sounds rather programmatic, not heartfelt. I’m going to have to handle those scenes very deftly. After all, the best revenge is writing well.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

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