Good Minds Suggest: Sally Field's Favorite Memoirs

Posted by Goodreads on September 7, 2018

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Actress Sally Field has spent more than five decades in front of a camera, beginning with her first television role, on Gidget, at age 17. Now it's Field's turn to tell her own story, in her own words, in the new memoir In Pieces. Field writes candidly about her lonely childhood, becoming an actress, and the emotional legacy that has shaped her as both a daughter and mother. In honor of her book, Field is recommending five more powerful memoirs that have inspired her.

"All the time I was writing In Pieces, I had several books always nearby—usually lying open, ready to come to my aid or keep me company," says Field. "When I felt stumped, or lost, or in a quandary, I looked to these five memoirs. It's hard to write about them as though I were touting some overlooked, obscure publications, explaining their subject and literary strengths. These five books are not obscure. They are, for the most part, well-known literary masterpieces by some of the finest writers who ever put pen to paper. I can only try to explain how they each served me, taught me, inspired me, day in and day out for the past seven years."

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"Besides revealing wonderful, intimate stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein in prewar Paris, this is a glimpse into the life of a struggling young writer, Hemingway, and a how-to manual for anyone who wants to fill an empty page with words. He reminds himself to look for one true sentence when he feels lost. To start with the first true, simple declarative sentence. Elaborate writing, like someone introducing or presenting something—the scrollwork or ornament—should be thrown away. I turned to this book and Hemingway, constantly trying to understand how he could say so much so simply."

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"Having this memoir opened at my side was like looking at Van Gogh's Sunflowers and wanting to paint like that. It can't be done. In the first chapter, McCourt transitions from past tense to present, talking with the voice of the child he once was, comprehending the world through the eyes of that little boy. He uses grammar—or the lack of it—to create the lickety-split rhythm of the Irish dialect, or the Brooklyn or Jewish cadence. It is a deeply moving tale of survival told with humor, raw honesty, and forgiveness. Never a hint of self-pity or bitterness, he stays the optimistic child, growing into the young adult as he sings his song, dances his dance, and tells his tale."

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"Different from McCourt, Karr tells her story in retrospect. From the beginning, the reader gets the sense that she's remembering the child she once was as the adult she is now, trying to find the traumatic events of her life, some that have remained hidden even from herself. Effortlessly, she moves back and forth, from childhood to present day to before she was born. It's wonderfully funny, and brassy, and lonely. From the get-go this memoir was my example of how to allow your own voice to come through, to talk on the page. So much so that I had to hide it away for fear I would start sounding like that little East Texas girl and not the one from Southern California that I actually am."

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"Vivian Gornick's fierce attachment is with her intelligent, uneducated Russian Jewish mother, and throughout this glorious memoir they walk through the streets of New York, arguing and raging with each other in the present and loving each other in the remembered stories of the past. Masterfully, the detailed memories of her childhood, of the ethnically diverse women who filled the Bronx tenement where she grew up, women she 'absorbed as if they were chloroform on a cloth,' are woven together with the present-day conversations with her mother as they walk side by side. Every page is filled with longing, and humor, and with Ms. Gornick's complicated need to feel both close to her mother and separated from her."

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"I first read this tiny, exquisite memoir many years ago while researching to play a character diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, or manic depression. Originally written in 1989 as a lecture, then expanded into an essay published in Vanity Fair, and finally into a book, it is a frank, almost unemotional, account of what clinical depression feels like from the inside out. Styron, whose work I've always loved, generously tells of his terrifying life-threatening battle with the chemicals in his brain while he struggles to live his life as an artist, a friend, and a husband. Not only is he openly revealing things that are excruciatingly raw and private, but because he was a middle-aged man when it was written, admitting to the shame of mental illness—and the first to do so—I have always thought it to be a magnificent work of great personal courage."

Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 1: by Denise (new)

Denise Turney Sally Field picked five good memoirs. Several years ago, I read and loved "Angela's Ashes". It's a tough, poignant read. Loved it! Want to read William Styron's "Darkness Visible".

message 2: by Hilda (new)

Hilda McKee I am intrigued by her selection and looking forward to reading them too.

message 3: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Gutman I’m intrigued by Sally Fields and look forward to meeting her - in her book or in person
Edward Gutman. Baltimore

message 4: by ALEX (new)

ALEX M TMI, to say the least, son.

message 5: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Brown I've always adored her since Gidget! Was told I looked like her in my youth. Can't wait to read her memoir!

message 6: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Sabau I have just finished reading Sally's book and found it to be powerful and well-written. It makes me want to sit down and have coffee with her and talk about it.

message 7: by Christie (new)

Christie Two "celebrities" who are excellent writers and are worth mentioning. David Niven (The Moon's a Balloon) and Peter O'Toole (Loitering With Intent). O'Toole actually began working as a professional Journalist.

message 8: by David Lloyd (new)

David Lloyd Angela's Ashes bored me to death. It seemed monotonous to say the least. But the other recommendations look interesting, particularly Fierce Attachments and Darkness Visible.

message 9: by David (new)

David Miller I loved her memoir, made better by hearing her read her own words on audible.

message 10: by Judith (new)

Judith Monk The Moons A Balloon was awesome. David Niven was hilarious.

message 11: by Kathy (new)

Kathy I saw Sally Field speak last night in Toledo, Ohio, as part of the public library authors' series. She was fantastic. She mentioned these books, but I could not write them down. Thanks for posting!

message 12: by F.B. (new)

F.B. Bennett Sally Field is an American treasure! She was terrific in "Smokey and the Bandit" and also "Sybil". Loved "Angela's Ashes" and can't wait to read "In Pieces"! by F. H. Bennett, Author of "Saturday Night Dead" and the upcoming "Trouble at Harry's" Find me on Twitter at BelfusF

message 13: by Gillian (new)

Gillian Flochel "Darkness Visible" is a book everyone should read: even if by good fortune you are not surrounded by someone in a depression or depressive yourself, it gives very moving insight into this descent into hell.
Even better, it emphasizes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Only a writer could have documented so minutely his own depression.

message 14: by Adria (new)

Adria Leigh Looking forward to reading Sally Field 'book!!! Thank you 😊

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