An essay on memoirists by Benjamin Kunkel published in The New York Times Sunday Book Review resonated with me. I even love the title Misery Loves a Memoir.
Kunkel sees a marked contrast between many contemporary memoirs (including recent "invented" memoirs) and earlier ones. He says Wordsworth's heroic argument was "that the theme of an individual's growth could claim all the dignity and moment traditionally accorded battles in heaven or on earth." Growth, not just recounting loss, abuse, mistreatment, failure (or making them up)...but learning from them.
He goes on to say that "The best and most Romantic memoir an American has produced is "Walden -- though nobody calls it one. But it is: Here is what I did with a few years of my life and how I feel about it now."
I've always loved this account of Thoreau's sojourn in the woods and for many of the reasons Kunkel mentions in his essay.
Kunkel's main problem with many modern memoirs is their tendency to dwell on bad experiences (real or fake) without even imagining the possibility of self-improvement. Of growth...