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On Reading a Memoir

REVERE BEACH ELEGY: A memoir of Home and Beyond  By Roland Merullo was sent to me by publisher Peter at PFP Publishing/First AJAR Contemporaries because I saw that it was being offered up on Merullo’s newsletter for review by bloggers.   I made a request and within hours it was on my e-reader.  Thank you so much

This is an autobiography in 10 essays and is not a straight story line about birth to present; I really liked this view and the highlights of his life shared in this style and with this kind of choppy movement.  The Librarian/author Nancy Pearls  tells us on National Public Radio to read a memoir while keeping in mind that much of our living is boring – mundane routine and we need to remember that memoirs are at least 20% fiction to keep us interested and connected to the telling.

I also keep in mind that when it is an autobiographic writing, then the other members of a family or friends will have witnessed a different perspective of the events, story and ideas.  The author can choose to leave out details or arguments and has control over what is presented.  What I so enjoyed about this read was that Merullo had such fine analysis linked to his thoughts at the time of the event and to his hindsight acquired wisdom, so that, the context of the story was indicative of something shared in his novels and other writing, but also what he gleaned and how that provided creative vision to his creativity.

There is an unsurpassed element of kindness in this book.  The ability to share emotions and to use them is quite astute and surely should provide a model for how the rest of us might strive.  The emotions are not ignored rather they are played out with fine tuning so the reader can truly identify and try them on for practice and future reference.   One can witness how this tuning is played out in BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA and LUNCH WITH BUDDHA where the feelings just seamlessly touch you – and one is left to say “YES” that is just how it feels to me.

Revere is the name of the city where Merullo lived and grew – The title was mistakenly read by me as a Dream or Thought process at first or even Paul Revere’s famous ride. I did not connect Beach to the name until I started reading and then I had to look it up on the map and laugh at myself for my mistake!  I so enjoyed all the closeness of family and the connections, especially since that was not part of my life.

I wondered again why so many Catholic kids grow up and embrace Buddhism?  Is it just because of all the Rock Stars who went to India or found a guru?  In this case, I think it is because it better represents the inner strength of the author and how he manifests his spirit; lots of Italian energy and food included in the present tense.

One of the essays is about how he, his wife, and infant daughter, just gathered up his mother and took her to Italy to live for a short period of time.  Not just a tourist visit, but a real move in and connect experience.  He knew how to achieve that from his work in Russia and his Peace Corp experiences.

I want to be more myself, my core self, when I read Merullo’s stories.  They inspire me not to imitate his experiences but to look to more meaningful experiences to undertake and enjoy.  All my analysis of living going on inside my head has a purpose and it is reassuring that my ability to integrate ideas and feelings is shared by someone else.  Roland Merullo has found a way to express them and let them fly free and not just ruminate within the psyche.

When I read a memoir, I work at being kind and non-judgmental.  I seek to find the positive and the opportunity which came from this telling.  This writer has shared the details and formed from this experience and now I can benefit from knowing and understanding. I do not need to try and repeat.  The pleasure is mine in the reading.

Have you ever thought of sharing a memoir of your life experiences?  Would you want to publish them? Would you stick with fiction?

I did receive a copy of this book from PFP Publishing/First AJAR Contemporaries.

If you purchase anything from AMAZON or POWELL’S  from this sight I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcome.

Related Reading:
Breakfast With Buddha
Lunch With Buddha
The Paper Garden

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14 Responses to “On Reading a Memoir”

  1. Talon Says:

    I’m afraid my life story would only induce yawns, Patricia! :)

    Patricia Reply:

    I think mine would need to be 80% fiction… But this was a good one that was very indicative of how his life inspired his fictional works and how he analyzed and integrated ideas into changing his life from his family’s – a change artist in progress!
    Patricia recently posted..On Reading a MemoirMy Profile

  2. suZen Says:

    Hi Patricia,
    I’m actually writing a memoir – rather Erma Bombeck style – and of course I’m moving Thurs. to the Northwoods so I have not been writing it LATELY but oh honey, once I’m up there and settled that is ALL I want to do! Hope you will review it someday because YOU, my Dear One, are THE BEST!

    Patricia Reply:

    YAY…I want a proof copy so I can review it early and be up and running ahead of the game

    May your move go well..
    Thought the North Country was Pickle Ball turf?

    Takes on to know one!

  3. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. interesting .. yesterday I thought how could I approach writing about my life – my ancestors life .. and then I realised I could do it in a similar style to the blog .. now I have to think on it – these 10 chapters you mention that aren’t direct follow ons – make sense in my scheme of thought.

    Thanks for posting this … and SuZen’s memoir will be a good read too, I feel .. cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted..Ice House Earth, Greenhouse Earth and those in-between times … our planet and its peoples … the male ancestral line … part 3/4My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I think your family history will be a good read also – so I look forward to reading your history too.

    Yes! I was very much drawn to this style, especially since the author is just part way through his life. It is as though the contents are those historic stories that added to his decision to become a writer.

    He has another one out too, and I can hardly wait for Dinner with Buddha which I am sure is coming out next.

  4. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia – I loved “Breakfast with Buddha” so I’m familiar with Roland Merullo’s wonderful writing style. I appreciate what you shared about reading a memoir:

    “I work at being kind and non-judgmental. I seek to find the positive and the opportunity which came from this telling.”

    In brief snippets and photographs, I already share a great deal of my life in my blog. I intentionally keep things short in an effort to avoid the yawn factor :)
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..When You’ve Got an Itch…My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I am getting a whole shelf of books that I like to read and re-read and Breakfast/ Lunch with Buddha are both there.

    I also discovered his book called a Little Love Story which is delightful and touched me deeply as my first love had Cystic Fibrosis.

    Yes you share some wonder full delights on your site and great snippets…no yawn factor found there!

  5. Alien Ghost Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Some time ago I started writing my memoirs, not with the intention of making a book or something, but rather as a way to practice writing a story, and since I knew that story, I didn’t have to waste time creating it (I know, lazy from my part). I wouldn’t be interested in publish it because it does look like fiction (growing up in eleven schools, a dictatorship, street confrontations, leaving home at 14, etc), so I guess nobody would believe it. LOL

    Alien Ghost recently posted..Human ExperimentMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I think your life would be fascinating and if you included your writing about Aspie World – we would all benefit. Just your ( sentence) has a grip on me…you have been working up to it…and remember 20% needs to be fiction to make it even more interesting…
    I want to do the review….

    Yes do write your memoirs. We want to know

  6. Sara Says:

    Patricia — I was heading the comment box, but read through the comments. I laughed at SuZen and Raul’s comments, but agreed I wouldn’t miss their memoirs.

    However, I have to admit I’m not fond of reading memoirs for the most part. But it was interesting how you presented this book and the idea of 10 essays sounds good. Most of all, I noticed how you educated us about reading a memoir, which is very important.

    I really liked this, “There is an unsurpassed element of kindness in this book. The ability to share emotions and to use them is quite astute and surely should provide a model for how the rest of us might strive.” That makes me want to read it:~)
    Sara recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: RebirthMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I so enjoyed reading this book – I do like memoir and have read a number of them this year – maybe as I work on my transition, it is nice to note how other’s moved forward or backward in their journey.

    This book I think is trying to answer some of the questions this author must get at all his book tours – How did you come to this idea? Why Russia? Why does Buddhism become a theme in your story telling? Did you grow up poor or rich? How did you support yourself as you began your writing career? What did you parents think?

    I got a much deeper respect for his story telling and his concepts and ideas. It was a good read for a writer.

    Yes I think Raul and Suzen would have great memories to share! I think you do also..

  7. Sam Juliano Says:

    “I wondered again why so many Catholic kids grow up and embrace Buddhism? Is it just because of all the Rock Stars who went to India or found a guru? In this case, I think it is because it better represents the inner strength of the author and how he manifests his spirit; lots of Italian energy and food included in the present tense.”

    Ha Patricia! I would ask the same questions too, but your answer in my view is quite persuasive. There’s an appeal here to youthful thinking. I remember in my own school days that Hesse’s SIDDHARTHA had the same kind of universal appeal. Personal memoirs get many people nervous, as they would prefer to remain anonymous. But if I were to do one myself I’s have so many amazing stories to tell from my coming-of-age years for sure.

    Wonderful report here!

  8. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for your good and kind words…it was a fun read and I wanted to give it the thumbs up lighter experience.

    Yes, I bet you would have some marvelous stories to tell about your youth and coming-of-age…and even now your family film adventures and outings…I’ll bet you have a number of stories from the students in your classroom too!

    I would like to offer my review services when you put the pen to paper…and I think PFP publishing is collecting coming of age memoirs on their newest selection of books