In 1990, Kenneth Branagh, the British actor, published his autobiography, titled Beginning. At the time, he endured quite a bit of ridicule because of his age. He was 30 when the book was published.
What worthy things did he have to say at such a tender age, critics asked? How could anyone be so arrogant as to publish an autobiography, a memoir of any kind, before they were at least 70, or older?
He was a toddler, a baby, an infant, for heaven’s sake. Go away and grow up, they said. Get some experience, squirt, get some age on you, get rid of the bum fluff, and then come and tell us a few things. 30? Get real.
Recently, here in 2011, an announcement was made that Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah, the former Governor of the state of Alaska in the US, would be publishing her memoir later this year. Its title is yet to be made public. Bristol is 20.
There are a few things Bristol could write home about, if she wasn’t already at home. She had a baby at 18, she’s been engaged to the same fellow twice, she came third on a TV show called Dancing With the Stars, her mother is a controversial political figure in America.
Twenty-one years after little Ken published his memoir, it’s par for the course to see ‘infants’ as it were, foetuses, some might say, publishing their contributions to the genre based on little more than dollops of fame and/or notoriety.
The year before he published, Kenneth had directed and starred in the film, Henry V, which also earned him Oscar nominations for directing and acting. Perhaps he felt the time was financially right to flog a book about himself.
Because it’s all about commerce, but you know that. Publishers don’t invest unless they’re almost entirely certain of a positive return. Justin Bieber is 16, and has already published his autobiography, First Step 2 Forever, and Miley Cyrus, 18, is the author of Miles to Go.
They’ve had the good grace, like Kenneth, to emphasise in their titles the fact that they’re just starting out. And they have, and will, sell trunkloads and truckloads of their instant memoirs because they’re celebrities for now, and their fans are easy marks.
Whether or not they’ll write follow-ups when they’re 70, or 25, is anyone’s guess. In a year or two, they could be simply formerly fabulous as the next generation moves in and dusts off the microphones and dance floors and cranks up the gossip mills.
So, my question to you, grasshoppers, is this: What’s stopping you from creating your own instant memoir? You can read and write, you’ve probably been around the paddock a few more times than Justin and Miley and Bristol, even Kenneth. You’ve got some wisdom and insight to fall back on, and you know and remember that Memoir = Life = Now. They certainly know it.
And even if you haven’t been around for long, even if you’re 16, or 18, or 20, you’re living your life here on the third rock, too, only it isn’t happening in a fish bowl, luckily for you.
Pursue the moment, and see where it leads you.
The next time you get that feeling that you need to remember this moment, this hour, this day, grab your writing implements, make a cuppa, burn some toast, and go with the flow. Get it down. Justin, Miley, Bristol, and Kenneth (now 51) are cheering you on.