I am not sure I get memoirs and autobiographies. Sure, for some people it makes sense. I get Nelson Mandela doing one. He had an interesting life, and hardship tells a much better story than bravado. If you are writing a memoir just to tell everyone how amazeballs your life is, do us all a favor.
Unfortunately that was the impression I got from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was one of the principal founder of the United States of America, and an entrepreneur and a scholar in his own right. Impressed? I wouldn’t be. The barrier to entry was a whole lot lower back then (a point I will get to soon). I think life is somewhat harder now a days. For the most part, this book is about a man going into how awesome his life is. It reeked to me of a retrospective life editing. I am skeptical that anyone is able to so frequently get everything right the first time. No one is that good. Perhaps it is selective memory. Perhaps he is remembering the hits and forgetting the misses.
Franklin does like to make a whole lot about his virtue of industry. He might be right, and it is something I myself would value in myself were I not so lazy as I am. But I feel like one could get away with a few things in those times that one would not be able to now a days. case in point, after a brief section on his founding the first libraries in the US, and the success therein, there is a brief passage where he says something to the effect of “I’ll now speak to the founding of libraries, if I have not done so already. If I have, I will just strike out this passage.” It remains in the book, and it feels like an error. An error that, where he trying to get this book off the ground now-a-days, would not have flown very well. It stinks of a kind of laziness, and the notion that whatever editor worked on this (perhaps Franklin himself) may have been asleep at the well. He certainly didn’t seem to have much reverence for his Autobiography as a finished product. It’s perhaps easier to be industrious when no one is looking over your work. Nor would I call it industriousness if you are just kind of phoning it in.
Yea, I get that the book was written piecemeal from collected letters. But still, it warrants a little respect for the craft.
This too all feels like a variation of the marksman’s fallacy. Franklin just wrote throughout his life, and at some point he bound together a collection of his writing and called it a memoir. Christ, I have been journaling for more than two decades, but I wouldn’t fucking show it to anyone. I have some respect for the craft.
Honestly, I think you can skip this one.