This seems to be the week for Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, the new book from SMITH Magazine (yes, the same SMITH which publishes A.D.). The book’s been getting tons of press, including an excellent interview with co-editors Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser on NPR’s “Talk of The Nation.”
Not Quite What I Was Planning originated from a contest SMITH held with Twitter last year, inspired by a possibly heretical tale that Ernest Hemingway wrote a complete short story in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Although Not Quite What I Was Planning‘s premise seems light, the pieces ultimately chosen for the book are a compelling, fascinating mix of personal stories: sad, funny, outrageous, wacky, and thought-provoking. Contributors include Sebastian Junger, Po Bronson, Deepak Chopra, Aimee Mann, Dave Eggers, Harold Ramis, Douglas Rushkoff, Nick Flynn, Paul Pope, Stephen Colbert, Arianna Huffington, Lemony Snicket, Neal Pollack, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Ford, Amy Sedaris, and hundreds of other more “obscure” memoirists. Oh, and yours truly: “When she proposed, I said yes” (p. 71). (Plus, I drew the pic of Harvey Pekar that graces his memoir, “Fight, work, persevere — gain slight notoriety,” p. 38.)
Sari (who’s also a contributor: “Suburban girl tries to make bad,” p. 152) and I (and little Phoebe) dropped by Housing Works this past Saturday night for the Not Quite What I Was Planningrelease party, where we saw fellow 6-word-ists man_size, bobfingerman, sazzabee, dangoldman, and jahfurry, as well as about a million other people. (I also had the pleasure of meeting, in person for the first time, SMITH co-editor Tim Barkow, who designed the amazing comics interface that makes A.D. real so well.) It was quite a scene! Phoebe, as usual, stole the show, and she even appears (twice) in a video shot at the party by Jason Boog from The Publishing Spot. Sari & Phoebe come off great in the video, but for some reason, my voice sounds exactly like Kermit the Frog’s. Ugh.
There’s also a funny riff on the book’s premise on PublishersWeekly.com today, imagining 6-word-memoirs by classic writers of the past & present. Some of them are quite amusing, even though some of the writers who are spoofed — like Joyce Carol Oates — actually have 6-word-memoirs in the book! And contributor Frank Gilroy is putting together a registry of Not Quite What I Was Planning memoirists and their websites.
So forgive my bias when I say the book isn’t just a quick novelty piece, but something real and trenchant and worth reading. After all, Vanity Fair says the little book “will thrill minimalists and inspire maximalists,” while Publisher’s Weekly finds that it makes for “compulsive reading and prove arguably as insightful as any 300+ page biography.” Go ahead and buy a copy or two. It’ll be the best $12 you ever spent to support a great online journal, and provide yourself with some fantastic bathroom reading.
Oh, and go ahead and submit your pithy memoir to sixwordmemoir.com — rumor is that a sequel is already in the works.