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

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite a fine performance by Ramon De Ocampo, Chang's novel makes a poor transition to audio. When Roman and Bernard, two poetry students at a prestigious writing school, vie for the approval of their renowned professor, Miranda Sturgis, they find their friendship sorely tested. De Ocampo's narration is crisp, nimble, and well paced; his voices are appropriate and varied--the Southern drawl he gives Roman's grandmother is a treat, and his rendition of a drunken Roman is a splash of welcome humor in this otherwise serious story. Despite Ocampo's best efforts, however, the listener's attention and patience will peter out; Chang's characters invite little sympathy or investment. A Norton hardcover (Reviews, July 26). (Sept.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Going into this book, I thought that the main character would be Miranda, the elusive teacher whose attention is desired by all of her students. On the back of my copy of "All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost" - she is described as charismatic and mysterious. That and the fact that the book is about modern day poets intrigued me.

Interestingly, though, I finished the book thinking nothing about Miranda and having experienced very little poetry.

Roman, the main character, dominates the book, as well of most of the relationships in his life. His complicated relationship with his teacher, Miranda, his relationships with the other poetry students, his friendship with Bernard...all are overpoweringly focused on Roman. Even what remains of his family depends solely on him.

"He understood now, viscerally, something he had only suspected as a child: that he was his family's aftermath. The most urgent betrayals, the great conflagration that had destroyed his family: all of it had taken place before he could remember, and the last traces were now burning out in the lightning synapses of Emily's winter dreams."

The problem with the book being so Roman focused is that he is a character that is so closed off - so inaccessible to the reader (at least this reader) that there is very little passion or fire to this book. I spent the first 1/8 of the book learning about the characters and then the remaining part of the book feeling as if the action taking place was all anti-climatic...with little idea what the climactic event might have been.

The women characters tell Roman at various times in his life that his poetry is guarded in such a way...that "there's something hidden about the poems. They draw attention and give nothing back.
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