Archive for the ‘Memoir Authors’ Category

Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Writing Our Own Non-Studies of D. H. Lawrence

July 9th, 2013 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 4 Comments

geoff dyer sheer rageGeoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage [Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence] is just about the best non-study of D.H. Lawrence that I’ve ever read.  Not that I’ve read any other non-studies of Lawrence, or any actual Lawrence studies, for that matter.  But if you want to read a truly superb non-study of Lawrence, I can’t recommend Out of Sheer Rage highly enough.  You will learn some things about Lawrence — but at a slant—and you will learn a world about Geoff Dyer.

That’s what I liked about it.

I’m a big Geoff Dyer fan.  Call it a crush if you like. … Read More

Salter and Aciman on the Past

May 8th, 2013 | Blog, Craft, Memoir Authors, Process | 3 Comments

Street in Rome (Photo by Sean O'Neill@oneillsdc5)

Portico d’Ottavia in Rome  (Photo by Sean O’Neill@oneillsdc5)

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m teaching an online memoir course.  I’m captivated by watching my students grapple with and write about the past.  Here are two passages for writers and anyone else who muses about the nature of memory, one from a novel and one from an essay, both beautiful and thought-provoking.

The first is from the narrator of the novel A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter:

Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like

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Darin Strauss’s Memoir Half a Life: What Did He Owe the Zilkes?

May 2nd, 2013 | Blog, Craft, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 17 Comments

Half a Life by Darin StraussThis week in the online memoir course I’m teaching, the students are working on characterization, both their own and that of others. We’re reading a chapter in Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington called “Writing about Living People,” in which she talks about how writers must come to their own decisions about their responsibilities to those whose lives are entwined with their own, and how one must balance the reasons for writing a story using real names against the harm that might be done to someone else.  I had thought this matter of what we owe people we write about … Read More

Rachael Hanel’s “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter” plus Two Questions

April 22nd, 2013 | Blog, Craft, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 8 Comments

Hanel_cover_small (1)The cover of Minnesota writer Rachael Hanel’s memoir, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter, recently published by the University of Minnesota Press, is curiously upbeat, practically gay, with its jokey title in bright white, yellow, aqua, and salmon letterings. A better cover to my mind would have been a skull, for truly this book is a memento mori. Maybe the cover designer was a Minnesotan who, like the folks from rural Minnesota whom Hanel captures so knowingly, was afraid to face the real subject, death and its bride, grief. … Read More

Andre Aciman’s NYT Piece on Memoirists’ Relationship to the Truth

April 9th, 2013 | Blog, Craft, Memoir Authors | 9 Comments

Andre Aciman

Andre Aciman

On Monday I started teaching an online course on writing the book-length memoir for Stanford University Continuing Studies.  For the next 10 weeks my students and I will be thinking and talking (or I should say e-mailing) about writing memoir, including the question that the Watergate hearings posed so beautifully: “Where does the truth lie?” I’ve always enjoyed the double entendre of “lie” in that line.  How do the facts of the past and the truth get along? It’s clear that the facts do not produce the truth, not the emotional, psychological truth that the modern memoir demands.  … Read More

The Still Point of the Turning World: A Moving and Uneven Memoir

April 3rd, 2013 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 7 Comments

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

Emily Rapp was a creative writing student of mine at St. Olaf College in the early 1990s.  She was an unusually gifted writer even as an undergraduate, standing such head and shoulders above the other students that it was a given that she was headed for a successful career as a writer.  She was also lovely, a beautiful, vivacious redhead, delightful in every way to the extent that I knew her.  She had just about everything she needed already in place: a keen intelligence; a gift for language; a rich, … Read More

The Curious Case of Sylvia Smith, Memoirist of the Banal

March 18th, 2013 | Blog, Memoir Authors | 5 Comments

Sylvia Smith  photo by Oliver Lim/Evening Standard/ permission of Rex USA

Sylvia Smith  photo by Oliver Lim/Evening Standard/ permission of Rex USA

I don’t know about you, but I love a good obituary.  So you can imagine how I perked up when I saw this headline in the March 2nd NYTimes: Sylvia Smith, 67, Memoirist of the Life Banal.

I know a thing or two myself about the life banal, but I’ve never considered it grist for the memoir mill.

I had to read on.

Sylvia Smith was not, apparently, an interesting person.  British, she dropped out of high school at 15, never married, “never had a great … Read More

Tony Earley and “Jack and the Mad Dog”

October 22nd, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Novel Authors | 6 Comments


Tony Earley

As soon as I saw that Tony Earley had a short story in the October 1, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, I sat right down and read it.  This was An Occasion for me.  I’m a big Tony Earley fan, based on two of his books: Jim the Boy, a novel published in 2000, and Somehow Form a Family: Stories That Are Mostly True, 2001, a collection of autobiographical pieces about his Southern upbringing.  I love his writing, which is lyrical, full of wonderful Southern details familiar to me, and deceptively simple.  He Read More

Cheryl Strayed on WILD, Her Writing Life, and Memoir

April 26th, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Authors | 3 Comments


Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed

While Cheryl Strayed was in Minneapolis as part of her book tour for Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, which I posted about previously, I went to hear her twice, once for a reading and once for a reading/talk called “The Art of Memoir.”  I’m hoping to pass along to you some of what she had to say about the book, her writing life, and memoir.  She’s so great, such a pro, so well-spoken, and so generous in her answers to questions.  Given the book’s popularity, you can find about a zillion Read More

WILD: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail — a Wonderful Memoir!

April 23rd, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 15 Comments

Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Trail

Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Trail

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is an amazing and wonderful book.  It’s certainly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  It’s beautifully written, so skillful in its craft, and so deep in its heart and feelings.   I found it totally engrossing, entertaining, and moving.

I think you would find it equally fine, but I do admit I’m prejudiced.  Cheryl was a student of mine in a graduate level fiction writing class in the fall of 1990, when she was … Read More