The Diana Woods Memorial Award in
by N. West Moss
Special Guest Judge, D. J. Waldie
Briefly and delicately told, “Dad Died” is suffused with a restrained melancholy that declines to dramatize the unraveling of two lives when, as the author writes, “He was going one place, and I was going someplace else.” Simplicity does not mean simple minded, either in affect or form. What’s plainly spoken has rhetorical effects other than syntactical, shown here as elisions, hesitations, and silences. We might say that this pared down language mirrors the cognitive losses of the author’s father. We might say that her language properly manifests the author’s own loss. It is a marker of authorial capacity that her voice carries two complimentary tonal registers—her father’s and her own.
Memoirs have the reputation of being a mongrel literary form, but that’s only partly deserved. When a memoir escapes being lurid or mocking or vengeful—everything this portion of memoir is not—it offers the willing, patient reader the experience of an imagination grown in its engagement with our world.
I’m a memoirist (and should be considered biased), and I believe that the imagination at work in the best memoirs is a moral one.
- D. J. Waldie, author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir and Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles