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Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir Paperback – March 10, 2009
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"A writer -- both energized and enlightened." -- Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way
"An invaluable addition to any writer's (or reader's) bookshelf. Each new chapter is another gift, unlocking the mystery of the story of the human heart. There isn't a better approach to memoir. Beautifully written, this book is for everyone." -- Robert Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink and Tales from the Teachers' Lounge
"The brilliance of this book is that it immediately gets you writing your story. It opens the inner treasure and the inner zoo, makes you wriggle and weep, pawn the family jewels, laugh out loud, tear down memory lane, and reawaken to the mystery of your own life." -- Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
"Natalie Goldberg doesn't fool around. The moment I started reading her new book, I found myself compelled to follow her lead. She's a master and this book is a must-read for anyone who even thinks about putting pen to page." -- Cheryl Richardson, author of The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and Take Time for Your Life
"A richly abundant how-to book full of deep personal insight and practical go-get-'em. Memoir writers, buy this book, put it on your personal altar, or carry it with you as you traverse the deep ruts of your old road. Really, this book could save your life." -- Tom Spanbauer, author of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Memoir, says Goldberg, "is taking personal experience and turning it inside out. We surrender our most precious understanding, so others can feel what we felt and be enlarged." Our feelings connect us not just to the past, but to the rest of the sentient world, even the political world. We may lead a lucky life compared to others around the globe. We may write about a red wagon or "the slow spring we remember in Ohio, while at the same time atrocities, torture, genocide are happening. It's not wrong that our life has been graced, but it's important to acknowledge that while a rose blooms a bomb is being dropped."
Much of Goldberg's advice on writing we have read before, in her earlier books. But her suggestions here for putting the mind and heart in gear, as we put pen to paper, are perfectly fresh. More and more of us want to uncover and write down our own stories, and Old Friend from Far Away will be welcomed by anyone struggling to set down the sweet or painful pressure of her life, the past as it flows into the present. The book is filled with inventive observations, and with Natalie Goldberg's infectious belief in writing practice. "Stay connected to the power," she says, "the pleasure of writing. Come back to that over and over."
A lovely and trenchant book.
This is not a book about how to put together a memoir, what topics to write about, or how to publish. Plenty of other memoir-writing books cover those topics. Goldberg is 100% cheerleader--reminding us over and over to "Shut Up and Write" because what we have to say is fleeting and so important. There are no great answers for who we are; don't wait for them. Pick up the pen and right now, in ten furious minutes, tell the story of your life. I'm not kidding. Ten minutes of continuous writing is much more expedient than ten years of musing and getting nowhere.
Natalie Goldberg is first and foremost a poet, so you can expect the pages to drip with delicious imagery. She is particularly adept at food analogies:
"Memoir gives you the ability to plop down like the puddle that forms and spreads from the shattering of a glass of milk on the kitchen floor."
"You crack open sentences, like egg shells letting the bright yellow, the clear white, in all its unorderliness, fall out."
The author advises us to jump in wherever we like; this is not a book to be read from front to back. In fact, she wants us to WRITE our way through the pages in whatever order we desire. And because life is not linear, you want to approach writing memoir sideways, using the deepest kind of thinking to sort through the layers. You want reflection to discover what the real connections are.Read more ›
On the positive side: The topics for the ten-minute timed writings (Goldberg's significant contribution to the world of writing) seem like fun. She teaches us to see details, not get derailed into abstraction. Her own writing demonstrates these principles. The author's own memories -- all too brief -- are the best part of the book. I loved her stories of studying with Alan Ginsberg and finding an unusual coffee shop for writing. As always, her writing elevates mundane events and gives them meaning.
But I was disappointed to see so many pages with just a sentence or two of writing exercises. Is she just tired of writing, I wondered, forcing herself to finish her book to meet the demands of her publisher? We don't get the kind of background Goldberg shares in earlier books, especially Thunder and Lightning. We get snapshots when it would be nice to have a movie. We don't get new exercises. And I'm not sure we get helpful insights into memoir as a genre.
For publication (or a good review, if you self-publish), memoirs need to make meaning of a life. The strongest memoirs carry a theme of struggle and redemption. We read about someone's life and something resonates with our own. Or we see this story a part of a bigger theme, giving us new insights and ideas. Weak memoirs leave the "so what" question unanswered.
Maybe that comes later...after you've written dozens and dozens of timed writings. Maybe it's not possible till you realize you've got to face down the truths that Natalie Goldberg urges us to expose in writing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing. I didn't have to read it though. It really have me some amazing free writing prompts though. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Matthew DiMasi
Natalie Goldberg, writing guru well-known for her book Writing Down The Bones, provides us with a different kind of manual (if it can be called that), this time for writing Memoir. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joseph R. Lacombe
wonderful to read with great prompts for everyone to get you started writing.Published 2 months ago by leecat
Great, inspirational book on writing memoir. I'm a long-time Natalie Goldberg fan, and there are many of the same tenets here as in her earlier books, but there's lots of new... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Theresa
I have been a writing consultant, writing instructor for 3 decades. This is, hands down, the best, most user-friendly book I have found. Read morePublished 5 months ago by B. J. Helmer
It's ok. This book has a bunch of writing exercises in it, which is great, but it's not as good as her other book--writing down the bones. Read morePublished 8 months ago by khue