Memory, Genre and the Romance Revisited: Joeh. R. Mringer's The Tender Bar, a Memoir

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Continuing controversy over honesty in memoir and autobiography asks readers to re-examine the degree to which a memoirist is obliged to be truthful, and what constitutes the truth in a memoir. Concern with narrative veracity, however, is intimately tied to issues of genre. J. R. Moehringer's successful memoir, The Tender Bar, exemplifies the crossing of genres: although Moehringer professes to write memoir, he calls attention to its artifice in describing his purpose and compositional process, and in passages stylized to the level of fiction. Moehringer's repeated references to ‘romance’ announce his method and pattern, and ground the work in a fictive narrative model. Romance does not demand tight causality; memoir can be similarly relaxed. The degree to which we accept the fictional in a memoir is the degree to which we approve or reject that memoir. Lines that divide modes of discourse break down in memoir's defiance of boundaries, as The Tender Bar illustrates, structurally and thematically. The discovery of error (willfully included or otherwise) can invest readers with an unwarranted sense of moral superiority; reading memoir requires a fair engagement of assumptions about fact and fiction, and the types of truth they offer. These things cannot be purely situational, but they are not easily defined or readily given to categorical conformity.

Original Citation

Crowley, J.P. (2012). Memory, Genre and the Romance Revisited: Joeh. R. Mringer's The Tender Bar, a Memoir. Forum for Modern Language Studies, 48(3), 260-273. https://doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqs011