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Cultural Narcissism and Memoir: Confession and Redemption Without God?

I'm hoping to write more about this later today, but the grocery store calls. So for the moment, I'll just quote myself from a recent post on 843 Acres. Check back in this afternoon for further reflections. If, that is, my kids nap simultaneously this afternoon:

Embedded in Daniel Mendelsohn's new article, "But Enough About Me" (The New Yorker) are connections between Christianity and memoir as a literary genre. The genre's history traces back to St. Augustine's Confessions (and, one might argue, King David in the Psalms). Mendelsohn wonders, however, what happens to memoir now that it is divorced from the Christian faith:

Once the memoir stopped being about God and started being about Man, once "confession" came to mean nothing more than getting a shameful secret off your chest — and, maybe worse, once "redemption" came to mean nothing more than the cozy acceptance offered by other people, many of whom might well share the same secret — it was but a short step to what theTimes book critic Michiko Kakutani recently characterized as the motivating force behind certain other products of the recent "memoir craze": "the belief that confession is therapeutic and therapy is redemptive and redemption somehow equals art."

In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things." Mendelsohn provides a faint echo of Paul's words as he suggests that memoirs worth reading are ones rooted in a deeper spiritual reality, or at least ones rooted in Truth with a capital T.

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