Memoir: Why Has It Become So Popular?

“The first frankly confessional writing in American literature seems to have been F. Scott Fitzgerald’s painfully candid “The Crack-Up.” This is memoir in the guise of self-abnegation and exposure. Fitzgerald was a Catholic, and perhaps it is a Catholic gesture of ‘confession’—in this case openly, lavishly. Then, in the late 1950s and 1960s American poetry exploded—the Confessional Poets

(Lowell, Berryman, Sexton, Plath, Snodgrass) and the Beatniks (Ginsberg, Corso). More formal prose memoirs by Frank Conroy, Tobias Wolff, James Salter, Frank Conroy, Mary Karr et al combine some of the elements of ‘confession’ with elements of autobiography. The memoir is popular because it is usually very accessible to readers, without the complexities of literary post-Modernist fiction; its meaning is made explicit.”
– Joyce Carol Oates