How to Write Political Memoirs

Dear Mr. Swallow:

RE: Your Memoirs

Yes.  I have had some success in writing biographies and regularly receive invitations to help others record their own life stories. I am generally happy to help.

But I have always demurred when it comes to memoirs on politics and governing. They constitute a particular genre, and I am not sure there is much need to encourage it. Certainly, few things have the limited appeal and shelf life of a retired bureaucrat's reminiscence. (Perhaps, those spotted, cellophane-wrapped bananas by the checkout.)

But I am moved to help you because your career sounds so damn funny, and I get the  point: our government is crazy, and all you can do is laugh, cry, or commit a criminal act. 

For this reason and thanks to unattended books in the dumpster next door, I submersed myself in political memoirs and identified patterns. I am now prepared to offer the following guide to assist a re-drafting your curious biography.

1) Invoke an Immigrant Past

Most Castorians can draw lines to ancestors who immigrated under difficult circumstances. Starting your memoir with their stories gives yours the aura of heroic struggle, work ethic, and persistence. It’s best if you can reach back several generations for your immigrant story to reduce the risk of being contradicted by the living.  

Famine-era Irish ancestors are popular, but oppressed Eastern Europeans are okay as well. Immigrants from much of Western Europe will suffice up to the middle part of the last century.  You can use ancestors from England and France, but only as a very last resort.  This immigrant-ancestor technique appears to be available to almost all bureaucrats and politicians at this writing. 

The only ones who would not be able to avail themselves of it are new immigrants who constitute their family`s first generation here or aboriginals. These people, if they have an inclination to write memoirs, likely have truly heroic, hurdle-climbing difficulties to describe from a first-person perspective. But if you fall into this category, your story will be dismissed by political memoir reviewers as audacious, contrived bluster.

2) Bewail the Bureaucrats or the Politicians

Even though the purpose of your memoir is to commemorate your rise to a position of great influence, you must devote large swaths of your book to detailing how your best plans were thwarted by sniveling bureaucrats – or if you were a sniveling bureaucrat, you must cast the politicians in the role of nemesis.

This cannot be avoided.

It is essential to inject drama into the tale of your grand achievements, which would seem dull and routine if recounted as having been supported by able professionals or promoted by those above. Blaming the unimaginative bureaucrats or the dull-witted politicos can also be an effective device in explaining any failures and your inability to institute, while in office, those innovative policies that only occurred to you after retirement.

3) Denounce the Shallow and Superficial Media

While you do not, as a politician or senior bureaucrat, sit high in public opinion, the members of the media lie right down there in the survey sewer channels with you. This means your readers are receptive to stories that reinforce the image of the media as biased, lazy, and interested in a good story over substance. You can freely rant about how newspapers and electronic outlets twisted reporting on your noble work stringing the facts together out of context just to make a readable, audience-drawing story.

Since no one is truly objective, it is easy to find evidence that a particular news reporter lacked this quality on occasion, and you can generalize this as expansive proof that none of the media ever fully absorbed your thoughtful policies because it is likely no one ever did.  In any case, be selective, use the examples that help your case and convey your point stringing the facts together in a compelling way to make your memoirs more readable and audience-drawing.

4) Pseudo-Slander a Famous Colleague or Contact

No political or government memoir that aspires for a readership beyond single digits is free of what is known in this dark trade as “a juicy bit.” This is an unstated, but vigorously inferred allegation of wrongdoing, misconduct, and personal failings on the part of someone famous, preferably a former colleague, but at the very least, someone with whom you had verifiable near-personal contact. 

By maligning a famous person in this manner, you can generate media buzz around your book in a way that induces rebuttal and debate. Your name and your book will be indelibly tied to the famous person in online metadata and weblinks.  This memoir-making technique is vital, but also delicate. It must be done with enough force to have the desired effect, but in a way that avoids sustainable libel suits.

The following template options can be adapted to your memoir as appropriate.

• “As far as I can tell, despite the many different people involved, no one ever felt victimized by all of the (remember use “the” not “his” or “her”) extra-marital affairs that took place while (he or she) was in office.”

• “I have to note that despite the growth in the national debt and all of the unraised questions, criminal proceedings were never initiated in regard to (his or her) personal financial activities.”

• “I did not hide my feelings about the practice of accepting free tickets to cricket matches in exchange for military equipment contracts, but I never heard (him or her) denounce it once - nor did anyone I consulted in the preparation of these memoirs. Strange to say the least.”

There you go, Swallow.  I hope that it will suffice so you won’t feel the need to contact me again. 

Truthfully Yours,

Otto B. O’Graphy