The Legend of the Six-Word Memoir   3 comments

A while back, my agent, Esther Newberg, forwarded me an email about the upcoming Six Word Memoir book, a follow-up to the best-selling Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs By Writers Famous & Obscure. This one would be about Love and Heartbreak. I wrote a submission (so did Esther and hers was fabulous.)   The new book is on sale now and both Esther and my six-word memoirs are excerpted in the February Reader’s Digest.

I remember when I first heard about the Six-Word phenomenon. In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway bet ten dollars that he could write a complete story in just six words. He wrote: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  He won the bet.

When I first heard this, I got shivers. It evoked in me exactly what it was supposed to, a chilling montage in Victorian, Goreyesque black and white of the death of a newborn –at what hands? Thyphoid? A terrible accident? Murder? And on and on. Hemingway earned his genius status once again.

That was long before I had a child in 2003.  Because I wasn’t sure whether I would have another one, I kept all of her things, packed away in boxes at my parent’s house.  I didn’t do the second kid, I got dogs instead.  My mother asked me about a month ago if she could give the clothes to Goodwill and I checked in with my friend Jancee who’s first child is due in May. “I want them!!” She told me. I was kind of surprised because Jancee is such a germaphobe that I call her Howard Hughes. I just figured she’d want everything new and pristine. Au contraire, she wanted EV-ER-Y-THING.

So my mother brought it, five Hefty bags of baby clothes.  I went through some of them, stopping to ooh and ah at the itty-bitty snuggly baby sleepers and tissue thin Ralph Lauren ruffley dresses, and in one bag, I found another bag. Accessories. Hats and socks and shoes. And in that bag I discovered a pair of pale pink 0-3 month mary-janes with the tags still holding them together. My six-word story for them went, “Seventy bucks!  What was I, nuts?”

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Posted January 24, 2009 by julieklam in Books

3 responses to “The Legend of the Six-Word Memoir

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  1. Julie, I loved this. Its the 1st time I’m reading your writing. I will get your book!

  2. This is the first time I read Hemingway’s six-word story. Wow, just devastating. I got shivers too. And what happy news about Jancee. I assume it’s a girl.

  3. I had never read EH’s six word story either, though all his books many years ago…goodness me!!!

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