The Memoir-of-the-Month Club

A year's worth of addiction, heartbreak, and Sting.

MEMOIR IS THE willful teenager of literaturefrequently self-indulgent, by turns confessional and cagey. Misery is the genre's prevailing tone: Everyone's got a tale of hardship to tell, and there's nothing more therapeutic than a best seller. Still, these hard-luck accounts can provide a welcome dose of schadenfreude during the holiday season; it's always reassuring to know that someone's worse off than youalone on New Year's, unkissed under the mistletoe, unfavored by the Hanukkah dreidel. And, given as a gift, the well-chosen memoir is a great way of telling a friend, "You need help."

JANUARY Adrien Brody's performance in The Pianist moves audiences to tears. Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilmanthe basis for Brody's character sees his memoir, The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 (Picador, $13), come out in paperback as a movie tie-in. Also: Liz Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and Bitch, whines less relevantly than ever before in More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction (Touchstone, $14). Addiction to writing memoirs, perhaps?

FEBRUARY Frank Gannon jumps on the Angela's Ashes train (maybe a few years too late) with Midlife Irish: Discovering My Family and Myself (Warner, $13.95).

MARCH American-raised Jordanian Queen Noor attracts considerable attention with Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (Miramax, $7.99), her account of being glamorous, feminist, and royal.

APRIL The year in addiction memoirs continues in suitably unpleasant fashion with James Frey's A Million Little Pieces (Nan A. Talese, $22.95). After boarding a plane "covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit, and blood," Frey experiences dental surgery sans anesthesia and befriends crack addicts and mobsters, recounting his whole clusterfuck of a life in a shotgun style that makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas seem cursed with lethargy and structure.

MAY Though bingo addiction is this year's trendy gambling topic, "Amarillo Slim" Preston goes old school in his self-congratulatory retrospective, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived (HarperEntertainment, $24.95). Why must so many memoir titles be so long?

JUNE Ushering in two eagerly awaited memoirs, June finds Augusten Burroughs recovering snarkily from alcoholism in Dry: A Memoir (St. Martin's, $24.95), while Hillary Clinton makes another foray into writing with Living History (Simon & Schuster, $28), in which she relives Monica-gate for our benefit. Lucky us.

JULY One of the funniest, most well-written memoirs of the year, Why I'm Like This (Perennial, $12.95) is writer-performer Cynthia Kaplan's ode to desperate dating, self-deprecating, and other edgy gerunds. Also: She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders (Broadway, $24.95), Jennifer Finney Boylan's nonfiction answer to Middlesex, is a fascinating first-person exploration of the transgendered life.

AUGUST In Losing My Faculties (Villard, $21.95), Brendan Halpin dissolves the romantic notions that surround urban teaching; all the while, his boyish sense of humor remains delightfully intact. A good-hearted memoir, and one of the year's most accessible.

SEPTEMBER Another boom month. Highlights include James Brown's through-the-ringer addiction saga, The Los Angeles Diaries (William Morrow, $21.95); nonfiction "godfather" Lee Gutkind's manifesto/memoir, Forever Fat (University of Nebraska, $26.95); and New York mixologist Toby Cecchini's Cosmopolitan (Broadway, $21.95), in which we finally learn what the bartender really thinks of us when we stumble out into the night without leaving a tip (to be reviewed next week).

OCTOBER Sting's Broken Music: A Memoir (Dial, $26) hits bookstores. A month later, he'll duet with Mary J. Blige at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Broken music, indeed.

NOVEMBER After the TV movies and MSN.com interviews, anyone who's been cryogenically frozen can get the dirt on Jessica Lynch's POW experience thanks to I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story (Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95), co- authored by journalist Rick Bragg.

DECEMBER Ponderous memoir of a semiliterary life or refreshing new portrait of a legendary writer? Either way, Douglas H. Gresham's Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis (HarperSanFrancisco, $9.95) has "bargain bin" written all over it.

nschindler@seattleweekly.com

 
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