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I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320312
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this collection of essays, Patricia Hampl attempts to explain the lure of the memoir. It is today one of the most popular literary genres, but not long ago, readers would have been hard-pressed even to find memoir sections in their favorite bookstores. Hampl, who herself is a memoirist of note (A Romantic Education and Virgin Time) opens the book with some of her own memories. She recalls a bus trip during the Vietnam War era to visit her "draft resister" boyfriend in jail. When the bus stops along the way in a small town, she notices a large, middle-age woman passionately kissing a very handsome, much younger man, or is it the other way around? The woman boards the bus while the young man runs along outside, blowing her kisses. She takes the seat next to Hampl and says with a sigh, "I could tell you stories."

This small event sets the stage for the rest of the book--it draws a narrative out of a mostly mundane moment and underscores the complicated nature of remembering events as they actually happened. She writes that because "everyone 'has' a memoir, we all have a stake in how such stories are told. For we do not, after all, simply have experience; we are entrusted with it." In the balance of the book, Hampl examines the autobiographical writings of St. Augustine, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, Edith Stein, and Czeslaw Milosz. In each instance, she attempts to uncover the writer's intentions and reveal the true secrets that lurk in the shadows of what's on the page. I Could Tell You Stories is an excellent investigation into what makes a story essentially worthy of being told and ultimately read--a good companion to whatever book is currently in your hands. --Jordana Moskowitz --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Several of the writers featured in these volumes make reference to the problem of memoirs in contemporary culture: their proliferation, the troubled skepticism about their value and meaning, and the disdain for their perceived narcissism. In different ways, these books explore those issues and embody the best that memoir can beAintelligent and perceptive reflection that looks both inward and outward. Edited by Baxter, a novelist and critic, the third volume in the provocative "Graywolf Forum" series offers timely insights into the place of memory and memoir in contemporary society. In his introduction, Baxter identifies the unifying theme of the essays as a dual anxiety about the public and the private and what he calls "the effect of memory's peculiar privacy." These are self-conscious and beautifully written essays that deftly explore the act of memoir-making and the art of storytelling. Ranging from tales of trauma and loss to quotidian and even banal events, they probe the tension between memory and forgetting and the mysteries of how we do each. In I Could Tell You Stories, award-winning writer Hampl collects 11 essays, eight previously published (and one of which appears in Baxter's volume). Here the pivotal theme is the fusion of the reader and writer at the heart of the writer's "communion of the word." In polished narratives rich with evocative detail and astute observations on reading and writing about other authorsAincluding Walt Whitman, St. Augustine, Franz Kafka, Sylvia Plath, and Czeslaw MiloszAHampl achieves what she praises Whitman for, placing herself "between the personal and the impersonal." In so doing, she offers fresh perspectives on memory, writing, and literature. Both books are recommended for academic and public libraries.AJulia Burch, Cambridge, MA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Rosemary Patton (rdpatton@aol.com) on August 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Hampl has written a thoughtful, original study of memoir, both reflections on her own life and on the works of other notable memoirists over almost two thousand years--notably Czeslaw Milosz, Saint Augustine, Anne Frank, Edith Stein (a convert from Judaism to Catholicism, who became a martyr under the Nazis), Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman. In this era of tell-all memoir as melodrama, Hampl has restored the form to something provocative and serious, at the same time writing a highly readable series of linked essays in which she probes issues of morality and truth and the historical importance of the recorded life. The prose, reflecting Hampl the poet, sings as she meditates.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Robyn M on September 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
We read this book as part of a graduate-level memoir writing course. One of its essays: "Memory and Imagination," offered me the best account so far in understanding what memoir actually is, why we feel motivated to write it, and the value of the first draft. Hampl confronts the intersection of memory and fiction—specifically the use of inventiveness in memoir which she interprets as part of the search for emotional truth. She champions the value of the first draft, likening it to a mystery which drops clues to the riddle of the narrator's feelings. Another of her essays questions the ethics of writing about friends and family. It's a worthy guide for any writer, fiction or non-fiction.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on June 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Indispensible reading for writers and thinkers.
Patricia Hampl is both, and we are the richer for it. This collection of essays attempts to explain the art, depth, breadth, fact vs fiction, role of memory, and the allure of the memoir. Hampl shows and explains how it's possible to create a narrative arc within the genre of memoir writing from the most commonplace and seemingly mundane occurrences.
Superb book written thoughtfully, quietly, lingeringly - meant to be savored, not gulped down all at once.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Julie Jordan Scott on January 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This multi layered book shows, tells and illustrates in an intriguing fashion.
It tells you about memoir and memory and shows you, actively, of Hampl's writing journey and then illustrates through her essays.
Her description of "re-vision"... literally revisiting the "scene" in one's memory and her description of memoir writing as "travel writing" -- notes taken along the way -- give you a flavor of Hampl's unique fingerprint.
Read and study this one if you are at all interested in writing and actively reading memoir.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gail K Kroll on October 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of the MOST insteresting books I have ever read. I go though several of Ms. Hampl's explorations upon people and life which I found both intriguing and informative. I especially enjoyed the chapter about Edith Stein. (Try reading at least that chapter and see if it entices you too.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Greensmith Jordan on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
My life has been touched by this insightful book. Hampl has invited me into her vision of the writers' calling, and I understand that impulse more fully. She shares not only insights about the complexities of writing about memory but also gives us brilliant views of writers she admires. From Augustine to Plath, the rich material stays with me, teaches me, inspires me in my own writing like no other book about memoir.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F. Higgins on July 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Writers, especially of creative non-fiction, should be required to read I Could Tell You Stories. Hampl is a deep thinker who can make her vision clear through her flowing prose and terrific metaphors. She gives great insight into the genre of memoir, exploring memory and its meanings. Some of the chapters revolve around a particular author -- Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Kafka, etc -- and they're informative and interesting, but Hampl is at her best when she writes her own experiences, memories, and feelings. Lots of good tips for the writer.
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