On ‘Six-Word Memoirs of Love and Heartbreak’


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It’s remarkable how much can be packed into just six words. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s super-short story ‘For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn,’ Smith Magazine began running open submissions of memoirs in six words, getting equally fascinating entries from the famous and the unknown (the six words are quite an equalizer). The best were collected in ‘Not Quite What I Was Planning,’ which became a bestseller. But the memoirs keep coming, and now, just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s a new collection, ‘Six Word Memoirs of Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous and Obscure.’

I’m not sure of the exact count, but Heartbreak easily outnumbers Love. Is that because all breakups are different, but love seems to be a single quantity? Or maybe because it’s easier to say something unique about heartbreak in just six words? Here is a sample:


I loved the idea of you. -- Audrey Adu-Appiah Tomorrow, maybe, I’ll sell the ring. -- Matt Tanner He posted our sex tape online. -- Lauran Strait Heartbroken, until the bitch finally died. -- Christopher Moore It hurts even worse in French. -- Derek Pollard Inevitably, his obituary didn’t mention me. -- R. Sue Dodea I thought we had more time. -- Joe Hill

My favorites are those that have an ambiguity, where it’s hard to tell whether the memory is full of love or hate -- or some mysterious combination. Are these relationships over, or do they continue? Could they survive being portrayed here -- if Porochista Khakpour had worked out her problems with her mate, what kind of problems would her memoir below cause?

Wonder-filled, and never a dull torment. -- Diane Ackerman He is married. I am not. -- Hope Truhart She said she liked my penis. -- Chip Rowe We’ll break up before this prints. -- Porochista Khakpour

It’s really hard to do straightforward love stories in six words without sounding like a bad pop song. But Mark (Boing Boing) Fraunfelder and George Saunders are a cut above.

Everyone’s crazy except you and me. -- Mark Fraunfelder What once were two, are one. -- George Saunders

-- Carolyn Kellogg