Industrial-Sized Deals Best Books of the Month Shop Women's Handbags Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Deradoorian Fire TV Stick Grocery Find the Best Purina Pro Plan for Your Pet Shop Popular Services tmnt tmnt tmnt  Amazon Echo Starting at $99 Kindle Voyage Metal Gear Solid 5 Shop Now Deal of the Day

Modern American Memoirs
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$14.21+Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2002
This wonderful collection of autobiographical pieces is extraordinary in the variety of lives that are represented. I cover my eyes from Wallace Stegner's Saskatchewan dust and then I open them to witness the East River sunset from Barry Lopez' window. I sneak books out of a Memphis library with Richard Wright and then I'm with Cynthia Ozick digging out of a crate from the Traveling Library. The book's radiance comes not only from the rainbow of lives reflected but from the craftmanship, the nuts and bolts of changing the stuff of life into art. So many ways, so many self-less, ego-less ways to transform the personal into the universal, to say I am you and you are me and we are all.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2000
This is one of the most intoxicating books I have ever read. Annie Dillard, one of America's most well known authors for her detailed illustrations of nature, has magnificently compiled a book of memoirs that colorfully describes the American society and its struggles throughout history. This book gives you the bitterness of struggles by various well known figures such as Malcolm X and Maxine Hong Kingston. It builds an intense image of the daily life in the most detailed and delicious way possible.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2005
Annie Dillard, the editor of this collection, is widely considered one of the foremost American writers of nonfiction. Akin to the sophisticated, peerless, but somewhat dry,"The Art of Fact, " a fabulous, though now somewhat-dated anthology for those journalists who wanted to expand their rule-driven pieces, these are only somewhat relevant as contemporary examples, mostly useful to the writer studying how the genre of creative nonfiction has evolved over the last century into modern-day anthologies, such as the "Best American Magazine Writing," or even, "Literary Journalism." The writing is, line by line, richly artistic (far too many people are misusing the word "artful" lately--my pet peeve, but maybe I should just give up and start using it to mean "full of art"). On a positive note, Dillard has carefully chosen varied forms to show the genre's possibilities. Loren Eiseley's, "The Star Thrower," depends heavily on symbolism and theme to great effect, while Chris Offutt's stunning piece is one of the more contemporary. All have heart and emotional honesty; every writer here showed great courage. Scholars and writers of creative nonfiction should have this on the shelf, and certainly there is much to learn from studying these ("study" being the operative word; all are investments of time). A better selection for the younger writer in the genre looking for a quicker fix of literary gems might be Dave Eggers new anthology, "The Best American Nonrequired Reading," (not exclusively nonfiction but a winner) for more new and exciting experimental techniques. Nevertheless, a valuable and well-chosen classic work. Extra half-point for nice cover art. (This is not a yearly anthology). Also see "In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction," ed. Lee Gutkind, for peerless, and more contemporary, work in the genre.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2013
This book was published in 1995 and contained 35 pieces of autobiography by as many writers. Most were excerpts from memoirs, a few were short stories included in full (Don Asher, William Kittredge and Barry Lopez).

The works ranged from an excerpt of The Education of Henry Adams in 1905 to pieces from 1993 by Barry Lopez and Chris Offutt. They were mostly from the 1960s to 90s, with works from the 1980s comprising nearly half of the collection. The oldest authors were Henry Adams (1838-1918), Hamlin Garland and the native American Left-Handed, the youngest were Tobias Wolff, Harry Middleton and Chris Offutt (1958-). Nine of the writers were women.

The editors tried to offer a variety of types of writing, themes and locations, ranging from straightforward descriptions to shifts between past and present, mixed with a few pieces that were humorous or philosophical. Works were set in many parts of the country, in the north, south, west and midwest.

For this reader, the standouts were an excerpt from Growing Up by Russell Baker, which used letters with skill to show how the Depression crushed his mother's hope for love and security. James Baldwin looked back at his father and himself in a rambling but moving section. Malcolm X described early turning points in his life, including a trip to Boston and disappointment with a teacher's hypocrisy. Richard Wright detailed his struggle to overcome the barriers thrown in his way to get an education and find new ways of seeing the world.

Tobias Wolff described scheming his way into prep school, while his brother Geoffrey's work focused on their con-man father. Anne Moody covered efforts at desegregation in the South amid turmoil and brutality. The excerpt by Henry Adams contained muddled, repetitive but still striking thoughts on the new century, as he struggled to grasp it from a historian's point of view. Hamlin Garland described farm life in the 19th century. I appreciated this anthology for including writers like these.

A number of the works focused on children as they began to find their way into the larger world or covered parent-child relations and an influential parent. Couples and authors' marriages received less attention. African-American experience in particular was covered in some depth (Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Malcolm X, Moody, Wideman). But for a book published in the 90s, it might've been good to include a writer after the 1960s -- in addition to Wideman -- to show a more contemporary picture.

For me, the book contained a few too many pieces on growing up or working on the farm (Stegner, Kittredge), works that didn't really stand out (McConkey, Howard) or ones that seemed plodding and pretentious (Eiseley, Buechner). Writing that was even more varied would've been welcome. What it felt like to be poor and homeless in the present could've been described by Lee Stringer or someone writing just before him. Something could've described drug addiction (Junky by William Burroughs or The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll). Or violent family dysfunction (Shot through the Heart by Mikal Gilmore). Or war (World War II by James Jones, or something on Vietnam by Tim O'Brien, Ron Kovic or others); from this collection, a reader might get the impression that no American ever went off to fight. Something might've been included by Studs Terkel on Chicago or Lydia Lunch on Los Angeles.

Additional Hispanic-American writers like Luis Rodriguez would've been informative. Or even one Italian-American writer like Jerre Mangione, or a Japanese-American writer like Hisaye Yamamoto. Or something by a politician or major businessman. Or a description of religious experience (Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy) or -- since this was the US -- the immigrant experience (Achy Obejas, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?).
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 8, 2010
This is my one of my favorite books that I have read in quite awhile. I read quite a bit, and have a fondness for memoirs, having read many actually "modern" memoirs, but few so luciously literary as these. Several other reviewers have nicely analyzed this book, so let me just add my whole hearted recommendation for it. All of the 35 sections in this anthology are excerpts from memoirs of varied lengths written by truly prize winning authors. I am very glad to have met every one of them. They were by turns eye-opening, hilarious, sardonic, erudite. The stories range from the beginning of the 20th century until 1996, so, while it says "Modern" it is really a bit of a look toward the past.

One thing I noticed is that, unlike many newer memoirs, none of the authors seems to being trying to "prove" anything. Yet many have dealt with incredible obstacles so out of the experience of most people, such as grinding rural poverty, deadly racism, the Great Depression, wildly difficult parents. They don't seem to make themselves out as heros or try to teach anything. Yet I learned something valuable from practically every one. It was quite a mind-expanding experience to look through a window into lives I had not previously imagined.

I wish everyone could read this book. It is that good.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2009
I loved this book! Such an interesting and diverse study of characters that make up the american story and heritage. Each story is written by such a wealth of talent and told with a depth of passion from each authors own life story. I could hardly put it down and have lost alot of sleep since I normally read before going to bed. although each story could be read in a normal sitting they are all so engrossing that I had a difficult time not moving on to another story after finishing one. A very good read for someone who wishes to understand the feelings and experiences of the lives of those we call "American"
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2009
For the person who has come to the point in their life where they have discovered the value of beginning to write their own memoirs, this is an excellent collection with several well chosen examples for that starting point. Very inspiring with highly charged emotions. Many examples of varying styles. Time well spent living vicariously the intimate lives of others.
Gary Parks
New Memoirist
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I write memoir, have read the complete memoirs of many of the writers included in this book. These are examples of great writing, wonderful story telling, compelling tales. The selection of authors is 'what you would expect', no surprises. I will give this book to my son who is a writer and to others who aspire to write. It is important to see how many ways there are to write memoir.
My one frustration with this book is that some of the selections end abruptly, at awkward moments. Annie Dillard could have done a better job there. Something else to note is that of the thirty-two authors excerpted only eight are women. I could list a half dozen excellent women memoirists right HERE who are as good as any of the men in this book. That said, it is still a good book to own and study.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2013
I purchased Modern American Memoirs for use with a group of adults in workshop I just taught entitled, Writing Your Life: Beyond Journaling. Annie Dillard is a wonderful writer and well versed in memoir. The selection consists of a nice range of memoir writing styles. Although a number of memoir anthologies are available comprised of a wider selection, this particular group is more contemporary. Perhaps additional commentary from Dillard about each of the selected essays might have pushed this book into a 5-star. That aside, for writers new to memoir, there are some excellent examples to be excerpted.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2012
Excellent collection of American memoirs. A true slice of life that primarily focuses on the early lives of many great authors.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir by Russell Baker (Paperback - May 20, 1998)
$10.45

Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past by William Knowlton Zinsser (Paperback - March 10, 2005)
$11.17

 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.