Misery Memoirs

The Old Bank Hotel is accessorised with a small library so this weekend I put aside Pale Fire, deciding instead to read David Rieff’s memoirof Susan Sontag’s (his mother) death from cancer. It is not a book that I would have purchased, grief memoirs being a genre I despise.

I read Swimming in a Sea of Death out of admiration of Sontag’s criticism. When I finally put the book to one side, my main thought was of the deep sorrow the man must have lived through to write such a raw, uncompromising account. I hope that it was an effective part of coping with Rieff’s grief. I am no less enamoured of the genre. The NYT reviewentirely captures my sentiment.

Incidentally, on an ad-hoc visit to the Walton-on-Thames branch of Waterstone’s, I noticed with some revulsion a section labelled ‘Misery Memoirs’. It says little of the local residents that Waterstone’s has felt the demand in that location for such odious marketing.

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