Archive for the ‘Memoir Reviews’ 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

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

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

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

Joyce Carol Oates: Laura Ashley and Mudwoman

March 21st, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 3 Comments

Innocently browsing through our Minneapolis Star Tribune one morning (March 19), I came upon the “The Browser” column, which consists of short book reviews.  Suddenly my eyes grew large in horror.  Joyce Carol Oates has published a new novel.  Lord help us!  By some counts it’s her 38th.  She’s sort of the literary equivalent of that California woman who gave birth to octuplets.

It’s called Mudwoman, which does not bode well.  Here’s the review:


By Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco, 428 pages, $26.99)

Madness and malevolence squirm on almost every page in Joyce Carol Oates’ 38th novel,

Read More

Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story: On her Marriage to Raymond Smith

March 15th, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 11 Comments

Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Smith

In my first post on JCO’s A Widow’s Story I focused on her experience of trauma and grief following the unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith.

Now I want to look at another aspect of the memoir that fascinated me: her writing about her marriage and husband.

I don’t think you can ever really see inside other people’s marriages, which doesn’t mean we’re not interested in trying. I also think writing about one’s own marriage is a “challenge” best avoided! Given this memoir’s “situation” –Oates’ husband’s sudden death– and the “story” (to use … Read More

Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story: A Painful, Powerful, Rich Memoir

March 12th, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Authors, Memoir Reviews | 6 Comments

A Widow’s Story

I’ve finished reading Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story, though I’m far from being finished with it.  I don’t know when I’ve bookmarked a book more.  It’s full of striking passages that I want to revisit and share with you.  I felt riveted by the unexpected loss of her husband, and the vivid, impassioned depiction of her “posthumous” life, as she describes it, in the moments, hours, days, weeks and months following his death.  The memoir is first and foremost a purge of uncensored grief, but it’s also revealing, more so perhaps than she intended, about … Read More

In Which I Try to Figure Out How and Why I Choose Certain Books to Read

March 5th, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Reviews, Musings/Reminiscences, Novel Authors, Novel Reviews | 7 Comments

What to read next?

In my last post, I talked about how there are a million books out there to read (and listed some places to read reviews of them).  Then I got myself in trouble by saying I wanted to give more thought to how and why I choose certain books and that I would report back.  Now I feel obliged to report back, not that I think anyone is holding his or her breath.  Turns out I don’t know why I pick books, beyond certain X factors that seem to vary from book to book.  It’s usually a … Read More

One Million Cats, One Million Books: What to Read, Continued…

February 29th, 2012 | Blog, Memoir Reviews, Musings/Reminiscences, Novel Reviews | 6 Comments


Millions of Cats

As a child I loved a book called One Million Cats.  A quick Google search reveals it was a picture book written and illustrated by Wanda Gág in 1928.  It won a Newberry Honor award in 1929, one of the few picture books to do so.  One Million Cats is the oldest American picture book in print.

But enough factoids.  This is a great book!  An elderly couple is lonely and the wife wants a cat to love.  So her husband goes out to find one, and comes upon a hillside covered in “hundreds of … Read More