In French culture, the word mémoire, as in un mémoire (the word has no direct English translation) is used for a (usually short and incisive) piece of writing allowing the author to show his or her opinion on a given subject, logically approaching a series of facts in order to arrive at a recommendation or conclusion. In English, it can be deemed a form of essay.

My name is Heather Michon, and I am a history nerd. A history geek. A devourer of history books and biographies. No shame in admitting it.

The short essay – the mémorie – has long been my preferred mode of writing. Maybe this began in Mrs. Duff’s 5th- and 6th-grade classes, where we wrote one-page stories in wobbly, loopy cursive and mounted them on sheets of cardboard and taped them to the classroom walls. Maybe it was in Mr. Ahern’s junior year composition class, where we had to read the New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” like it was Holy Writ and he once told me I wrote like Walter Cronkite spoke (and I was geeky enough to recognize it as a huge compliment). Maybe it was because my college mentor, Dr. Jeff Potash, favored an endless stream of 2-4 page history essays as his primary tool of compositional terror. Short writing is surgical – it’s as much about what you cut as what you leave in. And it leaves you no place to hide. You either know what you’re talking about….or you don’t.

My attraction to short composition has defined my writing career. I’ve written hundreds of entries for various encyclopedias. I’ve written hundreds of abstracts for academic papers. Dozens of short feature stories and book reviews. An incalculable number of tweets and Facebook posts and blog posts.

Much of what I hope to cover on this blog will relate what I’m reading. I can’t even begin to calculate how many history books and biographies I’ve read in my lifetime. I can’t fathom how much I’ve forgotten from all that reading. Yes, I could just keep notes or a commonplace book. I’m sure there’s an app for that. But one of the best parts of being a reader and writer is sharing what we read and what we write with each other, and with a wider audience. So, why not marry my two loves – reading about the past and writing about in short, sharp bursts – into one blog? A record for me, and a way to let the rest of the reading world to find something interesting to learn about.

I used to think of history as a record of settled fact. That is, I now realize, not accurate. There are few settled facts about the past. We’re always learning something new. We’re constantly coming up with new interpretations of past events. New technologies beyond the library and the archive are opening up entire new paths of inquiry. I find it endlessly fascinating, and I hope you do too.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at editor [at] memorie-blog.com.




Leave a Reply