|It was William Shawn, a man who seldom talked about himself, who introduced the rubric of Personal History to The New Yorker. It was the sixties, when it seemed like people were talking about themselves all the time. But Personal History is different from the oversharing to which we’ve now become accustomed. The stories assembled here have none of reality television’s shiny surface; they are, instead, examples of the extraordinary things that can happen when writers travel to the most complicated parts of themselves. Some of these pieces recall a tragedy with astonishing, almost incomprehensible clarity; others, like Daniel Mendelsohn’s account of his long correspondence with his favorite author, go all the way back to the haze of childhood. All begin with a very particular event, or set of events, which happened to an individual, but then wind up being about all sorts of other things that happened in the larger world once, too. “Personal History”: the balance of the two words, and the sum of their parts, is what makes memoir in The New Yorker.