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All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: A Novel Paperback – September 12, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (September 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393340562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393340563
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chang, director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and author of Hunger and Inheritance, sticks close to home as she follows Roman Morris from his days as an M.F.A. student in the late 1980s to his soaring career as a published poet, tenured professor, and Pulitzer Prize winner. Unfortunately, the book lends credence to the clichés that plague modern poets and the institutions that foster them: wine-fueled workshops are held by candlelight, and Roman's fantasies about his talented, beautiful, and aloof workshop professor lead to a student-teacher affair. Roman's eventual success brings out his resentment of the academy and its favoritism and politics, but this is a work of fiction, and the championing of creative writing programs should not be its cause. In Chang's hands, the world of poetry is a cliché; instead of a novel, she delivers a case study of the modern poet with little bearing in reality and characters as one-dimensional as the premise. While the language is well crafted, readers may be disappointed by the lack of quality storytelling.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Chang is director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and here she weds her professional knowledge of writing-seminar dynamics to her lucent style, producing a stunning novel that more than fulfills the promise of her early work (Hunger, 1998; Inheritance, 2004). Miranda Sturgis is an exceptional poet, and though her critiques can be ruthless, graduate students at the renowned writing school where she teaches fight to gain admission to her seminars. She proves to be a tantalizing and enigmatic figure to her students, especially Bernard Blithe, one of the most serious poets in the class, and Roman Morris, who fairly burns with ambition. Chang shows the two men, one who regards poetry as an avocation, the other as a means to an end, to be essentially similar in one devastating way: their intense loneliness, which comes from sacrificing all personal relationships for the sake of work. Among the many threads Chang elegantly pursues—the fraught relationships between mentors and students, the value of poetry, the price of ambition—it is her indelible portrait of the loneliness of artistic endeavor that will haunt readers the most in this exquisitely written novel about the poet’s lot. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

This is a rare novel that creates a very distinct mood.
It was overall an enjoyable read, reminding me of the sacrifices one must make to adhere to making good art.
Lois Minsky
Where she doesn't succeed - in my opinion - is to develop fully fleshed characters.
Jill I. Shtulman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Derek C on September 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
AIFNIL is easily read with incredibly tight structure and precise language but you can't stop thinking about it when you reach the end. Some passages are so beautifully written you will go over them repeatedly.

On the surface it is a story of esoteric academia but as you read you will witness relationships between flawed individuals, their struggles to define and achieve happiness, narcissism vs. the desire for intimacy, the damage caused by failed family relationships, the effort required to create art and so much more. This novel is heartbreaking.

I would suggest picking up another copy to share because you will want to keep yours for the bookshelf.

Kudos to the Rumpus Book Club because I would not have found this on my own.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By P. Pereira on December 9, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a great read. I think Lan Samantha Chang has totally nailed it -- the lives and lot of poets. The four main characters, over the course of their lives, live out four related but very different life trajectories. Miranda is the stern distant demanding teacher, worshipped and feared by her students, who has an affair with one, and ends up choosing his first book for a prize, setting his career in motion, even while her own has peaked. Roman is the brilliant, lucky student, who grows to get the prizes, the university teaching gigs, the fame, but who ends up unhappy, unfulfilled, feels perhaps even a fraud. Bernard is the recluse, working all his life on one long unpublished poem, and carrying on letter-writing correspondences with "the writers of our time," who is jealous of Roman, but remains committed to his personal artistic vision-- he is perhaps the "true poet" of the four. Lucy is the poet who puts her carreer on hold to be wife and mother, supportive of another's career, and only returns to her writing later in life, renewed. It's a fascinating study of the motivations and drives and desires of poets; the relationships between students and mentors, poetry friends, poetry marriages; how things change (and don't change) over time. How in many ways "all that matters is the work." Or should it be -- "all that matters is the relationships?" Highly recommended.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. Parker on September 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Who is TRULY qualified to tell you if you're great or not?

That's the basis of Lan Samatha Chang's latest novel All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost.

The novels succeeds on many levels:

1) Mood and Tone: Reading this novel is almost like watching a movie where the colors are a dark-bluish. I simply felt the world around me stop as I read through each section.

2) Economy of Language. Chang delves into issues of achievement, doubt, worthiness, infidelity, guilt and betrayal with frighteningly simple language. This novel won't send you hunting for your dictionary.

Also, the writing is very visual. Often novelists stray from the story path to get on their soap boxes to talk about other issues NOT related to the story. Not Chang. She has a laser-beam focus on the story path from beginning to end.

3) Resonance: You may start to think about your own success after reading this novel, and who you allow to define whether your work is a success or failure.

This is a sparse, atmospheric novel that moves along at lightening speed. I will read again, and will recommend to others.
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Format: Hardcover
This rather esoteric novel takes root in academia, postulating the question of learned craft vs. natural talent, growing from the seeds of academia to the fully-fleshed struggles of characters who have taken their love of poetry into the world at large. For one promising young poet in particular, Roman Morris, the critique of his instructor, the enigmatic and brilliant Miranda Sturgis, far outweighs the opinions of his classmates. Miranda becomes the focus of Roman's quest, the arbiter of future success. And in the hubris of youth and ambition, Roman is oblivious to the far-reaching consequences of his actions. Classmate Barnard Sauvet has a more defined goal, an epic poem about the 19th century exploration of Wisconsin by missionary Jacques Marquette and trapper Louis Joliet.

Bernard lives frugally in a tiny rent-controlled Manhattan apartment, hardly interacting with others socially, save his friendship with Roman and Lucy Parry, another classmate. Lucy offers Roman words of encouragement when he is plagued by self-doubt, shielding his poems from the critical others in Miranda's seminar. Miranda is pivotal in this novel and these lives, touching each in unexpected ways as they fall into the rhythms of daily demands in the years after graduation. Roman remains the touchstone of this experience, the successful poet by which to measure the others, a prestigious prize upon graduation ushering him into a world he had only imagined. That same prize is at the root of his discontent, the gradual reshaping of his personal narrative. The world of poetry is insular, passionate, the debate between craft and talent endless. And for all the careless assumptions, the judgments made in haste, time inters the simple longings of youth under layers of memory and regret.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom C. on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love the way this novel moves. The opening is deceptive: a seemingly straightforward description of some writing students that is disturbing and, occasionally, funny. In the second and third parts, the novel builds and builds. The leaps forward in time somehow mirror the increasing fleetness of life as we grow older. At some point, I realized that I was actually reading an examination of the key moments in a man's experience over decades. In this way, the form surprised me. Characters surprised me. I think that the writer knew precisely what she was doing, and her ruthlessness is admirable. The novel is not conventional in that it does not ask us to like the protagonist or to approve of what he does, but I ultimately recognized his humanity and sympathized with him at the book's stunning and very moving close--a man looking back upon the meaning of his youthful ambitions and choices.
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