Memoir into Melodrama

Most of the time our interest in a movie -- especially the American variety -- is plot propelled. Here are some pretty people. Let's see what's going to happen to them in this or that difficult situation. Oh, no, not that! Watch out! Look behind you!

Our interest in a memoir, especially a good one like Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, is voice-activated. It's not so much the tale as the teller, the tone he takes about himself, what he makes out of past experience, that seizes and holds our attention. It follows that an autobiography is not the ideal foundation...

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