We live in a memoir era: a world where you’re seemingly nothing unless you’ve revealed all in pithy yet heartfelt prose. The editors at SMITH magazine understand this, and since 2006 they’ve been inviting authors to submit their own memoirs — with one stipulation: The memoirs must be, like Ernest Hemingway’s shortest of short stories (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”), just six words long. The amusing (and unexpectedly moving) result is Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.
On the “famous” end of things, we learn the abbreviated life stories of Mario Batali (“Brought it to a boil, often”) and Stephen Colbert (“Well, I thought it was funny”). But it’s often the “obscure” authors who give this self-described “literary toilet reading” some surprising heft. From Shonna MacDonald’s “Girlfriend is pregnant, my husband said” to Eric Wong’s “Chinese immigrant loathing drama in Anaheim,” these ADD autobiographies prove that brevity can be the soul not simply of wit.
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure (Harper Perennial; paperback; 240 pages)
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