The memoir police

2 Jun

Derrida Quote


A couple of years ago, British concert pianist James Rhodes succeeded in his efforts to have the English Supreme Court overturn an injunction granted to his ex-wife that prevented him publishing his memoir of a childhood in which he was sexually abused.

Hs ex-wife was granted the injunction on the grounds that the book would upset their son, should he ever read it.

Rhodes’ memoir has since been published.

Spectator journalist Brendan O’Neill thought this was a just outcome, however, as he argues in this piece titled Another child-abuse memoir: why can’t the past be private, the injunction should have been a personal one, applied by Rhodes against himself, because people should simply not write “misery memoirs” whose “take-home message is that humanity is ultimately wicked.”

A few days ago, SMH journalist Kath Kenny published this piece titled Our insatiable appetite for women’s tragic stories, in which she expresses her frustration with what she calls a “first-person traumatic complex” or as O’Neill would have it, the misery memoir industry. Apparently it’s virtually de rigueur to disclose traumatic events if you want to get ahead in reality TV or the published world, and people who don’t have anything traumatic enough to relate are being discriminated against.

Then Helen Razer published this piece titled Writers and artists your personal pain is not a blow for justice, in which she argues that the personal is no longer political and, puzzlingly, that we don’t need any more personal stories, we need more bulk-billing, as if one has any effect at all on the other.

Like O’Neill, Razer states her belief that some traumatic tales are too horrifying to be publicly told, and it would be better for everyone if they were kept private. There is, she argues, no longer a possible political outcome from  the writing of the self: that ship has sailed. Whether or not you agree with this statement depends entirely on your definition of the political.

Razer’s piece is more interesting than either of the others, and I believe that out of the three, she is the only one to have written her own memoir of surviving suicidal depression. I learned this from someone who took her on in the comments with barely disguised accusations of hypocrisy.

While none of these journalists have the ability to silence those who choose to write or speak about traumatic events they’ve survived, it is interesting that all three are making a bid to prescribe what our public narratives should and should not accommodate, and to determine what is suitable for public consumption and what ought to remain private. None of the journalists offer any evidence to substantiate their views: apparently they just feel it’s all gone too far, or to be specific, it’s gone too far for their comfort.

I’m not entirely sure how to respond to these complaints from the privileged about there being too many published accounts of private trauma. I think, certainly for women, it has only been possible to write the self at all for the last three decades or so, which in the scheme of things is barely a nano second so it seems a little premature for cultural critics to be telling us we ought to shut up about it.

There is also an enormous amount of scholarly literature on autobiography and memoir, that reveals the genres to be rich and complex. Indeed I wrote my Honour’s thesis on that very topic. For example, who is the “I” who writes? “I am spacious, singing Flesh, onto which is grafted no one knows which I…” exalts Hélène Cixous.

“Writing so as not to die,” observed Foucault “is a task as old as the world.” There are trauma survivors who write so as not to die, either metaphorically or literally. I find it extremely difficult to speak about my childhood trauma. Writing is my liberation, my mastery of what once governed me.

Nobody is forcing anyone to read our work.

To claim that work isn’t political is ridiculous.

To be sure, there’s some bad writing in the memoir genre, as there is in every other genre but that’s a matter of aesthetics and taste. I’m about to read Nick Cave’s The Song of the Sick Bag and after that there’s Patti Smith’s The M Train waiting on my bookshelf. There’s some memoir I wouldn’t go near, which doesn’t mean it ought not to have been written, but that this is a question of interest and personal taste.

It is, I think, mean-spirited and not a little ignorant to complain about others writing memoirs of trauma.

The division between public and private has always worked in favour of the powerful and the abusive. It’s not a little chilling to find our cultural critics calling for a withdrawal of traumatic stories back into the private from which they have so recently been liberated.










104 Responses to “The memoir police”

  1. helvityni June 2, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

    Of course, people can write about their traumas, their own suffering and miseries as much as thy like. People are free to read about it,or not.

    They can’t assume that they have the right to do the same with other living people’s tragedies without asking their permission.

    As for Helen Razer, I read some of her articles on ABC’s Unleashed, not interested in anything she does.

    Liked by 2 people

    • doug quixote June 3, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

      I don’t agree regarding Razer. She has a fine intellect and writes well, though this may not be her finest hour.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

        Look, it is a real world issue, this abuse of kids. But Jennifer Wilson spotted something in that posting that deserved a deeper look. If you are aware of weaknesses there, perhaps they are the same ones Wilson detected (if this is not Razer’s finest hour)?

        I think that like myself, you are actually tired of all the grandstanding and exploitation that goes with reportage on some issues.

        For my part, I just retreat at the thought of the brainpower and marvel at the ability of some folk to soak up Nietzsche, Foucault and others, make sense of their convoluted writings and render down ideas and theories and their rationales to some form of comprehensibility for us.

        Liked by 3 people

      • helvityni June 3, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

        DQ, I don’t know about her levels of intelligence, and I found her style of writing irritating, pretentious….
        Her sacking from ABC most likely had to with her obvious lack of people skills.


        • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

          Atta girl!!

          There is actually a point buried under that, to do with columnists arbitrating on what constitutes an issue from their bully-pulpits.

          Part of the joy of Razer is the convolution in the writing and she did it even better going back fifteen years when she wrote at the Age.. good self-satire as part of the style. I do find her outlook vis a vis Marxism a little hard to follow at times, but then I find so many people get their nuts in a knot trying to deal with it.


          • mish June 4, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

            Razer’s politics and philosophy are a bit hard to follow because they’re not completely coherent (I know, I know, whose are?). She refers frequently to Butler and Foucault as primary influences, but her critiques of cultural politics are largely in opposition to both writers.
            I’m not hating on Razer, by the way; I’ve long enjoyed her work. But there’s a contradiction (an unproductive one) at the heart of her ‘take’ on representation. I think she feels that there is in fact a Real, and a non-Real, and that’s where I differ.


            • paul walter June 4, 2016 at 11:12 pm #

              Ahhhyess..neatly, neatly put.


      • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

        Even when she’s writing tosh she writes it well, I agree. It’s sad to see her confined to savaging Housewives of Melbourne, or whatever.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Allegedly Noely (@YaThinkN) June 2, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    I honestly don’t ‘get’ why those who already seemed to have achieved some sort of profile in their writing (actually happens in nearly all careers) that they feel they have to put down others? Almost like they need to do this to somehow give themselves more esteem?

    Memoirs for me, as I suppose for many, are a personal thing? There are as many reasons for being interested and reading a memoir as there are for those who write them I suppose.

    To assume what the ‘intent’ was of a particular writer or to assume you can decide what is a valid or worthwhile ‘memoir’ to me just seems the height of arrogance. In fact, those deeming themselves the arbiters of what is worthy tend to turn me off to the point where their writing could be awesome but I would rarely bother taking my time to read their particular thoughts.

    Then again, I suppose I don’t have to, they will most likely tell me how wonderful they are without me wasting my time to form my own ‘uninformed’ opinion 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 2, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

      Yes, I know such awesome writers and I know what they’re going to say and why and I hardly ever bother reading…

      Some kind of arrogance takes over, it seems. I don’t know why.


    • townsvilleblog June 3, 2016 at 8:12 am #

      I think it would be a great release, having gotten to the top of his profession despite the abuse he suffered, and has written about it to contribute his two bob’s worth in the fight against pedophiles.


  3. 8 Degrees of Latitude June 2, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    There can never be an argument that people should not be free to write whatever it is they wish to write. The human collective owes every individual that opportunity. Where I might demur, though, and in the present case in this instance, is on the subliminal suggestion that if we don’t ourselves wish to read about poor so and so’s misery, former or current, we’re insufficiently caring and not advanced enough as human entities for the new world that is supposedly emerging. There’s a lot of that sort of cant about. It needs to be resisted. A lot of stuff gets written (hell, I write a lot of stuff myself). Reading it is an elective matter, as you rightly point out, Jennifer, and Helvi.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 2, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

      Yes, I agree 8 degrees. There is no compulsion to read anything once we’ve left school & tertiary education and neither should there be.
      There are times when I can’t even listen to the news.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Andrew Klein June 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    I enjoyed your blog as it raised some very relevant matters as to who controls what is often now coined as the ‘Narrative’ created by elect ‘Thought Shapers’. This is 2016 and I for one am grateful that people can write about and discuss their personal experiences. Given the recent disclosures in Australian Royal Commissions about those untold stories it is beyond the pale to suggest that such writing has no Political Implications . Thank you !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. townsvilleblog June 3, 2016 at 8:08 am #

    Reblogged this on Townsville Blog. and commented:
    These monsters need harsher treatment


  6. doug quixote June 3, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    It is a problem for someone forced to read all the relevant articles, eg a reviewer like Kenny or Razer.

    It isn’t a problem for those who can choose what they read, eg me, and most of you.

    The force of such articles depends upon the revelations and upon how well they are written; noting that our capacity for being shocked amazed or horrified has been numbed by the sheer availability of the literature and visual media.

    I note Razer has stated that she isn’t calling for anyone to shut up. She says:

    “I am not “silencing” anybody. I am just saying that this apparently liberating trend may not be as liberating as is widely thought.”

    Those of us with little in the way of personal trauma to relate may feel a little left out – and are therefore victims! As SBS once announced, seven billion stories and counting . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 11:00 am #

      The victimisation of the unvictimised –
      No, Razer doesn’t have the power to silence anybody, but there can be a zeitgeist of disapproval generated that achieves the same thing. This is how it all started.


      • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 11:58 am #

        Nothing wrong with having a story and wanting or needing to tell it, and it is probably the reader or viewer (if teev is involved) who risks something in not switching on a bs detector beforehand.

        The problem comes not with autobiographies and anecdotes, but their exploitation, as we saw with 60 Minutes and Beirut tonight. This can be a such a destructive thing when a legitimate story needs to see the light of day.

        I think the zeitgeist thing has examples in Duncan Storrer, Rosie Batty and Zaki Mallah, but if you push people hard enoughthtey will ge ttheir story out any way, with worse consequences for Establishment than might have occurred if a legitimate debate had been does seems the flood of value judgement as to what can or cannot be known about is most intense with Murdoch.

        O’Neill, as with Kath Kenny may be attacking self writing as self indulgence as well as buck-hunting that obscures serious messaging, but this is peripheral beyond that point, a bit in the way that someone like Paul Sheehan is peripheral, but I have to agree with some of them that there is a narcissistic element described with “first person traumatic complexes” as the original aspects of self writing on serious issues becomes generic, self serving and exploitative.

        Enjoyed Razer, spiky though she is, and enjoyed the attempt by Eliza Watson to take the issue up with her in the comments section.. Razer does have some odd ideas about leftism, a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

          Sorry for typos..there is an underlying can of worms benearth the placid exterior of a Wilson posting and in covering one aspect you get side tracked from others.

          Fwiw, I read another controversialist, Helen Dale, has resigned from her position with Sen. Leyjonholm..wonder what that was about, a spat within what passes for the libertarian right in OZ?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

            I don’t think I’ve ever before been described as placid, PW. It’s rather nice.

            Yes, indeed, I have no idea what that story is. Rather intriguing, they are both interesting and morally ambiguous.


            • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

              I do not think you are placid, although you strike me, through your writing at least, as a “balanced” human person. But I’ve slowly learned that there is often complexity within your postings and that the sort of skim that would do for a tabloid article doesn’t always work with better writers.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

                PW, an idiot once told me I loved him because of his *stability* I actually thought he was the most emotionally unstable person I’d met in my adult life, but he confused stability with always doing the same thing. Stability to me is feeling strong and grounded enough to act differently, ask questions, take risks and know there’s likely to be consequences you’ll have to somehow wear, not simply unquestioningly doing the same thing.
                You have to be very stable to risk losing your balance.
                Thank you for appreciating my writing, PW. You always see below the surface.


            • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

              The source of the Leyjonholm’s problem are traced back to an election funding deal which got leaked and blew up in his face in Fairfax just the last day or two.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 4:44 am #

                Yes, I’ve caught up with it now. I have little interest in the man, apart from occasional points of agreement such as marriage equality. He annoys me with his good men with guns stop bad men with guns theories.


                • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 8:20 am #

                  Give all the guns to the anti gun lobby.Problem solved.
                  I wonder,does the ‘good’ senators surname name translate to ‘long straw’ by any chance?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • helvityni June 4, 2016 at 10:21 am #

                    Hypo, according to senator Leyonjhelm his family name is Swedish in origin and translates roughly as “lion on a helmet” . The Swedish Leyonhjelms were aristocracy.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 10:28 am #

                      “lion on a helmet” .

                      Cat on a hot tin roof?


                    • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 10:50 am #

                      Ah, thanks Helvi. Lion on a helmet, eh? Which takes us back to Hypo & Baudrillard and simulacrum because if there is anywhere a lion does not belong, it’s on a helmet.


                  • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 10:46 am #

                    LOL I don’t know, what’s the origins?


                    • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 11:32 am #

                      Actually after a little more digging I think there is an obvious translation error.
                      Its not cats its bats, not roof,it’s belfry.It all makes sense now.

                      fladdermöss in his klocktorn


                    • doug quixote June 5, 2016 at 9:50 am #

                      The Swedish equivalent of a kangaroo loose in the top paddock, perhaps?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 10:44 am #



                    • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) June 5, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

                      “What was that about a Swedish kangaroo being loose in the Top Paddock? Pass my aide memoire puleese, Fleece!”


        • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

          Yes, agree PW, the problem is not in the telling of the stories, but in the exploitation by media (the same media who employ Razer et al) of those stories and authors because they see a buck in accounts of trauma survival.

          It’s something that needs to be taken on a case by case basis, IMO, rather than in some monolithic way that proscribes writing the self.


    • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      DQ, I am trying to imagine feeling marginalised because nothing bad happened in my life….
      I can only imagine feeling immense gratitude that I hadn’t had to spend so much time & energy undoing damage.
      The liberation of writing trauma is not necessarily anyone else reading the account, but the way writing can master chaos.
      None of the three journos I referred to have to read memoir for a living btw. They can avoid it altogether if they wish.


      • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

        If something bad hasn’t happened to a person in their life they must not be is by form and degrees and with interiority the damage is done out of sight of one’s fellows.

        The question is, is the damage done from some forms of human interaction so severe as to hinder recovery, as we see with the pianist?

        In which case the press grumpies need to be ignored when their sensibilities are fluttered, because others are suffering and some things need rectification…althoughthey are right if they are attacking the trivialisation of human communication and affairs. The deeper dialectic is real and processive, even if, as the deconstructionists say, the end results cannot be ordained from previous efforts at rectification. To say we don’t know what’s around the corner can be fair enough, but If you want to live, you do have have think ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

          The pianist continues to perform his art and that is a measure of his recovery and survival, however at what cost we may never know. It is the theft of energy, time and creativity by a perpetrator that is the most difficult aspect to overcome. These are things one can never replace, only attempt to catch up on while not drowning in grief for what has been stolen.


      • doug quixote June 3, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

        I am of course being absurd when I say there are people to whom nothing bad has happened – we all have grandparents, parents, friends, siblings who have died and affected us emotionally, if nothing else.

        But does the world need to know?

        Believe it or not, you Dear Reader are not the centre of the universe, and the universe really doesn’t give a fuck.

        That being said, it is no doubt cathartic to write down your pain and your experiences and someone out there will care.


        Liked by 1 person

        • Hypo June 3, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

          Slight edit>That being said, it is no doubt cathartic to write down your pain and your experiences and someone out there MAY care.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

            Sales of memoir would indicate that very many people do care, or at least are curious/prurient/looking for someone else who knows what they’ve experienced.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hypo June 3, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

              What I meant by inserting ‘may’ is in regards to the example of ‘us’ as a society, in life in general,not in literature.
              eg We stopped the boats.That = boats filled with individual stories of insurmountable hardship.And yet…..
              The way DQ phrased ‘care’ accidentally took the appearance of a glut of the stuff.

              It (may) was just a semantic tweak.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Hypo June 3, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

              and Jennifer for obvious reason we need to keep in mind the sticky beak factor in memoir reading.I actually think memoirs can have a very powerful influence on us.Can inspire.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

                Some memoir is written especially for the sticky beak factor, and usually isn’t much good.

                I truly don’t understand why there’s such vitriol surrounding memoir – there’s so much crap in every genre.


        • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

          Disagree. If something very bad is happening to other folk, some thing that could have further consequences down the line for others, in some case it’s necessary to raise an issue.

          Agree as to decentring, the problem is, how do you sort chaff from grain?


          • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

            Sorry Hypo, taking up dq’s point.


        • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

          DQ, I have no idea what the world needs to know, but I know I’m very bored with a preferred single narrative.
          Of course each of us is the centre of our personal universe, and as no less a luminary than Ghandi recommended, be the change you want to see in the world.

          Human emotions drive everything. The fact that this is so universally denied continues to lead us into all kinds of horrors.
          I’m reading Martha Nussbaum: Upheavals of thought. the intelligence of the emotions.


          • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

            My reply would be to add, why are some stories told in droves yet others ignored. Lots of stuff about movie stars and so forth, but where is the diary of someone living in a Jordanian refugee camp, in installments, in the Telegraph?

            Too “political”?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

              No, it’s more that there’s apparently a vicarious pleasure to be gained from slavering over celebrities, which is of course entirely absent from accounts of refugee camps.


          • doug quixote June 3, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

            As an extreme, Churchill said history would treat him kindly – because he would write it.

            [PS ed. Gandhi, not Ghandi. (!) ]

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

              LOL thank you DQ. How funny, I’m judging the local schools’ spelling bee in a couple of weeks but I think they give me a list of the words. 🙂


            • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) June 4, 2016 at 2:27 am #

              “…Reich, ein Volk, ein Spellink Nazi!”

              Yess. A demarkation dispute. Careful, or you may be pieced by some eyes!


              • doug quixote June 4, 2016 at 9:32 am #

                Speaking of Nazis, the rightists like to rewrite history to suit their own narrative, and it is necessary to call them out on this – for those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 10:48 am #

                  The victor writes the narrative. All else is subversion. 🙂 🌹


  7. mish June 3, 2016 at 10:30 am #

    Thanks for this, Jennifer. Razer’s and Kenny’s pieces gave me much food for thought; I found certain aspects troubling, and your contribution has helped clarify this. Nice touch bringing in Derrida etc. on writing – another dimension to this issue that’s sometimes neglected in public discourse.
    On a related matter – I haven’t read The M Train yet, but The Sick Bag Song is utterly glorious. My god that man can write 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      Ah, thank you Mish, I’m so looking forward to starting on that book.


    • AnnODyne June 4, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

      I willingly concede Nick can write. I see now his latest is recent tour tales about touring, not personal. I had to search online. I have Nick early-tour stories you’d love. mostly involving police. they only seem funny now. Ozzy Osborne and The WHO drummer Keith Moon knew how to tour too. obsessive people are always fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hypo June 3, 2016 at 11:02 am #

    Helvi, nailed it really

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Elisabeth June 3, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    You’re right about everyone being free to read and write as they will, Jennifer, whether they get published is another matter. I’m struggling in the writing of one of those memoirs to which Razer and Kenny refer, though I comfort myself with the thought it’s merit lies in the writing, not just the story.
    This post reminds me of the furore years ago when James Woollcott, American journalist, told Kathryn Harrison to ‘shut up’. Harrison wrote a memoir about her sexual relationship as an adult with her father, a beautifully written book, but one that many found disturbing. Woollcott referred to it as ‘dating your dad’.
    This trivialisation of the significance of incest and the power imbalance between parents and children even the the children are young adults nearly blew my mind.
    Razor and Kenny might not intend it, but their perspectives remind me of the pressure to stay silent when there’s something afoot that might unsettle people’s sensibilities. It’s a subtle form of censorship that I despise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

      Good to read your comment Elisabeth, you are always worth a read and this comment is to the point, a simple and clear construction created of appropriate materials.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

      Ah, yes, I remember reading about that furore, Elisabeth.
      I agree with your last paragraph: I doubt that either Razer or Kenny intend a silencing outcome from their complaints. It’s bizarre though, how there can be resentment against attention given to others because they’ve experienced a disadvantage or three: some attitudes to indigenous people are examples of this.
      Good luck with your writing.


  10. Hypo June 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    Social media and reality TV have trivialised lifes journeys and humanity in general.Combine this with the social media /online vigilante movement and pseudo justice champions,demanding instant blood.Creating conflict for ratings,or directing emotional behaviour,required on demand.No wonder our empathy levels are bottoming out.We have forgotten how to react instinctively.
    We are like ‘compassion diabetics’ and this artificial reality is rapidly becoming our insulin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      It’s a dangerous thing. We know less and less about real world experiences, say like a malnutrited person in a refugee camp in Africa might experience, or an aborigines living in a dysfunctional outstation somewhere. Or even the weird subcultures supposedly competent people here are caught up in.

      Instead, we live in a world of Kafka-esque fantasy imposed by criminals.

      Just thinking, prurience is an incredibly powerful phenomena. We know some things are morbid, treacly and exploitative but curiosity drives us on. A friend and I were talking on the phone the other night on this, on how as kids we surrepitiously purloined and read the salacious pulp fiction paperback Mandingo/Falconhurst slave torture violence epics about the US deep south. All it did was give me a complex because I didn’t have a twelve inch wang, thick as a baby’s arm, like the athletic powerful slave heroes who did so much (moral) damage to the Scarlett O’Hara types and slave wenches alike.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

      Have you been reading Baudrillard, Hypo?
      I agree with you: authenticity is hard to find and soon we won’t know what it is.


      • Hypo June 3, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

        Have you been reading Baudrillard, Hypo?
        That would be a no .

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

          Won’t beleive you are not familiar with him. Instead of getting ballsed up trying to read him, read a little about him.

          If you are familiar with Roland Barthes and his essays on propaganda and ideology, Baudrillard will make much sense.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

            I think you refer to Barthes’ Mythologies PW? Which contains his famous Death of the Author? Which has great bearing on our discussion of memoir.


            • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 10:41 pm #

              Exactly the one. He is celebrated before all mortals for the Death of the Author, but I had in mind Mythologies, and the French Colonial Soldier, an African, as a seminal early example of what are basically advertising techniques in micro, but in macro, how this species seems to balls up through misused ideology, religion etc.

              It is fresh as tomorrow.

              Which reminds, a beaut idea come from Baudrillard’s mate Bataille, who identified a notion of a “Politics of Excess” ex columnist Emma Tom identified in passing for me once.

              Easily identifiable today in Western materialist squander under the very noses of the disillusioned billions in the third world.

              I’m definitely keeping an EYE on this thread..

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 4:42 am #

                Also, Bataille on the function of eroticism. I’m sure I’ve written about this on Sheep somewhere.
                Digging out my Honours thesis I see I’ve made a connection between Foucault’s thoughts on confession (memoir in this discussion) and the erotic, about which I had entirely forgotten.
                And just the other day I found in a second hand bookshop a copy of Foucault’s Care of the Self, the third in his History of Sexuality and the one I left on a plane.
                I love a bit of synchronicity.


                • paul walter June 4, 2016 at 11:08 pm #

                  We’d surprise ourselves if we knew who we really were..


                • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 11:50 pm #

                  ” a bit of synchronicity. ”



  11. AnnODyne June 3, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    Thank you all commentors above, I enjoyed every one.
    The editors at publishing houses need to be re-programmed. and I’m sick to death of Nick Cave being admired by people who don’t know him as well as I do. I always expect him to be on the Women’s Weekly cover any time, a tour-de-force of Punk.

    I have only heard of Lacan, Foucault etc since I joined the online community in 2005, but I do wonder where is it written that Jacques Derrida ‘what cannot be said … must be written’ knows everything? I have been told 100 times that I should write my story, and my response is always the same “why should anyone else give a damn”. Any random person we care to question is bound to reveal a set of life tragedies. we all have them. Be kind to all you meet, in the knowledge that this is true. I take a deep breath and move on, enjoying the work of Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Robert B Parker, and Raymond Chandler “down these mean streets a man must walk, who is himself not mean”.


    • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm #


      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 3, 2016 at 8:45 pm #

      Ann, I only admire Cave’s work: I know nothing at all about him personally, tho perhaps that will change after reading his memoir. I don’t usually have any interest in artists’ private lives, but the form of Cave’s memoir appeals to me.

      I don’t think Derrida “knows everything”, I only agree with some of his thoughts and sentiments. He’s written beautifully on refugees and cosmopolitanism, but I don’t for a moment believe he knows everything.
      Reading Derrida and others led me into a new world of thinking and perception that stimulates and delights, but none of them are always right.

      I give a damn about stories that interest me. There’s nothing without story. Life cannot exist without story. And why are only some stories allowed to be called interesting, and who decides? It’s political.


      • Hypo June 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

        “It’s political.”

        Let’s invent a new term for such occasions?>

        ‘Poor litical’

        adjective: poor litical

        of or relating to the literary publications of a country.
        “a period of poorlitical and literary snobbery”

        bla bla etc
        “the poorlitical affairs of the nation”

        Methinks you’re absolutely right.Everything is subjective.(outside of the harsh judgement of the self appointed social media referees )

        I love “Dreaming Stories”, the ultimate memoirs.Looking fwd to Songlines NITV.

        Liked by 1 person

    • mish June 3, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

      AnnODyne: “I’m sick to death of Nick Cave being admired by people who don’t know him as well as I do.”
      You’re being satirical, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • AnnODyne June 4, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

        yes of course, clever Renaissance Nick. but he is so Everywhere. Saint Nick [and I feel the same about St Bob of Dylan] . Lauded endlessly, but it was so hard in the beginning to get anybody to pay attention. The first 3 performances of The Boys Next Door were so fabulous that it is a tragedy that there is no ‘vision’.
        I do hope Cave is now able [the memoir] to face the cathartic event in his life. Maybe the sad sad death of his son has given him the strength.
        He has, in the past, sent illustrations to my teenage daughter which were so obscene I could have had him arrested. I blamed substances and held higher ground.
        some Polly Borland feminism for you

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 8:37 pm #

          OKaaaaay…. that’s an enlightening link, Anne.


        • mish June 4, 2016 at 10:15 pm #

          I had a look at the link; thanks for sharing. I enjoyed what you’d written.
          I do get annoyed when Anwyn Crawford (whose music criticism I like a lot) says she ‘despises’ Cave now and when she talks about his misogyny. One, we went over and over his attitudes to women back in the 1980s and early 90s – it’s much too complicated to say he’s misogynist (and I’m a loony feminist).
          Two, why on earth would someone waste energy despising an artist because they no longer admired the work or the vision? Cave has been creating and performing for decades now; one would hope that he’d change somewhat, and change he has, many times. Now he’s seen as somewhat ‘respectable’, and some former fans feel betrayed – but that’s being awfully precious.

          The Sick Bag Song is part tour narrative, part meditation on America, part fantasy, part love letter to his wife whom he misses deeply as he writes. So no, not just a memoir, but yes, a memoir. It’s rather like a long and beautiful and sometimes hilarious poem.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Hypo June 3, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    Quick glimpse at Wiki,(thanks PW) .
    Well if nothing else I am definitely channelling Baudrillard

    “Baudrillard’s writing up to the mid-1980s is open to several criticisms. He fails to define key terms, such as the code; his writing style is hyperbolic and declarative, often lacking sustained, systematic analysis when it is appropriate; he totalizes his insights, refusing to qualify or delimit his claims. He writes about particular experiences, television images, as if nothing else in society mattered, extrapolating a bleak view of the world from that limited base. He ignores contradictory evidence such as the many benefits afforded by the new media”

    Looks like I won’t be writing a memoir.I have already ‘been done’.
    : (

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter June 3, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

      Definitely. See if you can google up somewhere with a list of his droll quotes, but here are a couple to start with.

      Loves doing aphoristic stuff, which is unsurprising since he studied Nietzsche.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 4:24 am #



    • doug quixote June 4, 2016 at 9:37 am #

      It is possible for more than one person to come independently to the same conclusions, Hypo. You and Baudrillard may be long lost twins. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 10:04 am #

        I think it’s handy that people can draw similar conclusions.Although the ability to draw the ‘right’ ones seems long lost on the majority, in capitalist countries.
        The great 20th century philosopher, Professor J.C Mellecamp aka Johnny Cougar once said:
        “You’ve got to stand for something
        Or you’re gonna fall for anything”

        and went on to elucidate , thus>

        “We’ve got to start respectin’ this world
        Or it’s gonna turn around and bite off our face”

        Looks like a few of us channeling old ‘Baudy Baby’…..
        Perhaps a sign of his spirit permeating the masses…..
        Old soldiers never die.

        (Enter Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps….)

        Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter June 4, 2016 at 11:23 am #

        Aye…”Great minds think alike, fools never differ”.


  13. paul walter June 3, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

    I feel a Nick Cave coming on. Before am subsumed, one last offering on authenticity and media from this side of the lurid line.


    FoABC clip. Also the article has some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hypo June 4, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    ” fladdermöss i sin klockstapel “


  15. Hypo June 4, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    Not a fan of pugilism,but:
    Vale Muhammad Ali.(He did other things,Viet Nam war resistance for one)
    ‘Floating like a Butterfly’ ,somewhere…..’

    I think he had a potential to great humanitarian things ….which shone through.

    Some Wiki quotes>
    Recalling Ali’s anti-war position, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said: “I remember the teachers at my high school didn’t like Ali because he was so anti-establishment and he kind of thumbed his nose at authority and got away with it. The fact that he was proud to be a Black man and that he had so much talent … made some people think that he was dangerous. But for those very reasons I enjoyed him.”[108]

    Ali inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been reluctant to address the Vietnam War for fear of alienating the Johnson Administration and its support of the civil rights agenda. Now, King began to voice his own opposition to the war for the first time.[109]

    In speaking of the cost on Ali’s career of his refusal to be drafted, his trainer Angelo Dundee said, “One thing must be taken into account when talking about Ali: He was robbed of his best years, his prime years.”[110]

    Ali’s resistance to the draft was covered in the 2013 documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali. (See In the media and popular culture below.)
    NSA monitoring of Ali’s communications

    In a secret operation code-named “Minaret”, the National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the communications of leading Americans, including Ali, Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker, Dr. Martin Luther King, prominent U.S. journalists, who criticized the U.S. war in Vietnam.[111] A review by NSA of the NSA’s Minaret program concluded that Minaret was “disreputable if not outright illegal.”[111]


  16. Hypo June 4, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    Surely NC’s memoirs would be Cave Man or Cave Dweller ,or Caught Redhanded?
    or better yet

    “Inside the Cave” (with a right red hand silhouette on the cover.) ©

    Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote June 4, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

      “Tales of a Troglodyte” (c) or Prince of Darkness perhaps?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

        “Constant Cavings” ©
        : )


        • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

          OMFG 🎯


        • mish June 4, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

          Ok, “constant cavings” was the end of me. Could not stop laughing.


      • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

        I’m getting bad Nick vibes in this thread


        • Hypo June 4, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

          His fan club should be called ‘Cavies’ ©
          ; )


        • helvityni June 5, 2016 at 11:04 am #

          Jennifer, I don’t mind Nick Cave at all as long as he leaves Cohen’s song I’m Your Man to Leonard.

          Does that make a ‘Lennie’…?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 11:56 am #

            Helvi, I just heard a female jazz singer covering Cohen (Sisters of Mercy) & Dylan (All along the Watchtower). She was very good, beautiful voice, but I need their hideous voices rasping out their brilliant compositions for the full experience 🙂


      • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm #



    • Jennifer Wilson June 4, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

      clever. glad you copyrighted that. 🙂



  1. Victims, Trauma, Spinoza, and Butler | No Place For Sheep - June 5, 2016

    […] of this has come  flooding back to me as a consequence of the last post I wrote on Sheep about memoir and trauma. There are, it’s alleged, too many people writing about their personal traumas; public […]


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