I’ve been listening to some audiobooks while I’ve been working the past few days. I’ve just finished Dave Gorman’s Too Much Information — a work that resonated all too well with me, given my growing frustration with the cacophonous “noise” of everyday life — and have since started on Sue Perkins’ Spectacles, her memoir.
One thing I’ve often wondered over the years is whether or not there’s any perceived value in the memoirs of “ordinary people” — in other words, memoirs written by people who aren’t celebrities, or even those who haven’t had anything seemingly noteworthy happen to them. And I’m inclined to think that there is — after all, the best celebrity memoirs are the ones that talk not about being a celebrity, but about their childhood, or formative experiences growing up, or things that they’ve experienced that helped make them the person they are today. Things that are relatable to the audience; things that are relatable to “normal” people.
There’s value in having a celebrity name attached, of course: someone who enjoys Sue Perkins’ TV and radio appearances is likely to pick up her memoir simply because they like her, for example. But this doesn’t mean her life story is inherently more valuable than anyone else’s. In fact, I’d wager a guess that there are lots of people out there who have had lives far more interesting than today’s celebrities have.
In my experience, whether or not the person whose life you are reading about is famous or not is largely irrelevant; what does, on the other hand, matter is whether or not they have interesting stories to tell.
And, well, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet too much, but I do feel I have more than a few interesting stories to tell. My life has certainly been eventful, if nothing else. This blog has occasionally dipped into memoir-esque territory, but as an idle side project, I’ve started writing down some of the things I remember from my past.
I am a normal human being. Well, as normal as anyone is these days, which is to say I’m riddled with neuroses, suffer from depression, anxiety and social anxiety—two very different, but related things.
I digress; I am a relatively normal human being. I haven’t survived some sort of unimaginable tragedy, I haven’t had to cope with a life-threatening illness or the challenges of a physical disability and the nearest I’ve come to being involved with a famous person is working in an Apple Store at the time John Cleese came in with a black credit card, proclaiming that it could “sink a bloody battleship”. I didn’t serve him, I was just there; that’s how much of a relatively normal human being I am.
Nonetheless, Things have happened to me, much as they have doubtless happened to you, your friends and the rest of your family. These Things may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll have found that the strangest things stick in your memories for many years, and it seems like quite a shame to run the risk of them, at some point, being filtered out of your mind in favour of some new and ultimately useless piece of information you picked up from Wikipedia. We live in an age full of constant noise, after all, with every piece of media around us vying for our attention and threatening to fill our minds with useless dribble that might get you lots of Likes on Facebook, but which doesn’t really compare to the fond memories of your childhood.
My memories aren’t all fond. Some of them are downright painful or embarrassing, and some of them, to this day, still make me feel overwhelmingly negative emotions such as anger or grief. It’s healthy to share such memories, though; otherwise, they just get bottled up inside, and, over time, you run the risk of them overflowing and forcing you to, I don’t know, run naked through a shopping centre with a chainsaw in each hand singing Stairway to Heaven. Or, you know, something.
With all that in mind, then, writing them down in some form seems like a reasonable idea.