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Review: Not Quite What I Was Planning

Once upon a time, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words.  What did he come up with?

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Awesome, right?  This Hemingway legend is the basis for the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.   Editors at SMITH magazine, an online storytelling community, collected more than 15,000 six-word memoirs, some from famous people, most from average people, and put about 800 of them together in this book.

I liked this book a lot, particularly the concept and quirkiness of the project.  I love idea of everyone getting a chance to tell their story, even if it’s only in six words.  There’s something equalizing about it — we may not all be famous authors, but we all have the right to tell our story.

In any case, I think anyone could pick up this book and enjoy reading it.  Each memoir makes you think a little bit, which seems astonishing since each one is only six words long.  My favorite memoirs were the ones where I actually had to stop and see if they were only six words because they seemed to say so much more than that.

The other fun part of the book was finding a memoir from a famous author.  There was one by Dave Eggers, another by Joyce Carol Oates, and another by Morgan Spurlock (the guy that did Supersize Me), just to name a few.  Below, I put just a few of my favorites for you to see.  However, you should really check this book out from the library to read the rest, it’s cool.

  • Was father, boys died.  Still sad. — Ronald Zalewski
  • Just in: boyfriend’s gay.  Merry Christmas. — Seshie Hargett
  • Fifteen years since last professional haircut. — Dave Eggers
  • Factchecker by day.  Liar by night. — Andy Young
  • Tequila made her clothes come off. — Susanne Broderick
  • Carnivore and herbivore birth magical omnivore. — Morgan Spurlock
  • Surname rhymes with profanity. Childhood torture. — Noah Smit
  • I write because I can’t sleep. — Ben Mezrich
  • Revenge is living well without you. — Joyce Carol Oates

I tried to write my own six word memoir, but so far I’m not very happy with it. Do you think you could write a six word memoir?  What would it be?

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion October 28, 2008, 2:23 pm

    I love this post! It’s given me food for thought – I need to come up with a six word memoir. Please post yours if you ever get where you’re happy with it.

  • bkclubcare October 28, 2008, 9:45 pm

    I’ve actually done this a couple of times. It’s fun. Right now? since I’m being bugged like you wouldn’t believe:
    “Oscar the dog, obsessed. Dinner time.”

  • Kim October 28, 2008, 11:11 pm

    bermudaonion: The one I’ve been thinking about is “I face life with demented optimism.” I’m not sure how well that works, but it’s a start.

    bkclubcare: That made me laugh, loudly. Six word memoirs are fun.

  • Rebecca Reid October 29, 2008, 3:15 am

    I came across this concept a few months ago and wrote a few “six-word memoirs.” I didn’t know it came from a book!

    Do you want the personal life one or the book blog one? How about both…

    Redheaded girl married then birthed redheads.
    Learned to read, Reid-ed, still reading.

  • bkclubcare October 29, 2008, 11:27 am

    oh Rebecca! both of those are terrific! And Kim? is that your blog tag line? I like.

  • Kim October 29, 2008, 1:29 pm

    Rebecca: I love both of those! You should submit them to SMITH — they are doing another edition of the book sometime in the future.

    bkclubcare: No, that’s not the tagline for the blog, just something I came up with for the rest of life. I tried to think about a blog line in six words but couldn’t come up with anything yet.

  • Jason April 28, 2010, 4:25 pm

    I thumb through this book regularly when I go to a book store. It’s always entertaining, and it inspired me to write a few six-word biographies of famous people. For example:

    Work after defeat is inconvenient truth. –Al Gore
    Fought, survived, choked, ranted, and snuffed. –Chuck Palahniuk
    Wrote surprise endings. And ‘Stuart Little’. –M. Night Shayamalan
    Had sexual relations with that woman. –Bill Clinton

    Have any of your own?

    • Kim May 1, 2010, 4:20 pm

      Jason: Haha, those are great! I’ve only done some memoirs for myself, but nothing to write home about 🙂

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