Here's one for the group: What is the difference between autobiography and memoir? Is it just a matter "pot-AY-to" / "pot-AH-to," or is there a real, defined delineation between the two? Does it even matter?
My general sense is this: Presidents, poets and scientists write memoirs, whereas athletes, actors and porn stars write autobiographies. To me, just the word "memoir" has that ineffable je ne sais quoi that makes it high-brow, thoughtful, and decidedly not trashy. Not that all autobiographies ARE trashy, but memoirs most certainly ARE NOT. Memoir is personal and emotional, whereas autobiograpy is simply a chronological chronicle of things that happened, without much exposition.
I've read a few that would probably fit into either category, and a few that I'm not sure how to classify. For instance, and the reason I've been tossing this whole question around in the back of my skull, is that even though tennis legend Andre Agassi's recent book Open is subtitled "An Autobiography," and even though he's an athlete, and even though it does contains tawdry details about his love life and drug use, the book still has an incredible amount of heart and passion. It's sort of halfway in between.
In the camp of decidedly memoir is Israeli writer Amos Oz's book, A Tale of Love and Darkness. The book, about growing up in war-torn Israel, is richly affecting and poetic. It's probably the best of the memoirography genre I've read.
I don't read too many of these, so help me out — what, in your mind, is the difference? What are some of the better memoirographies you've read?