- Hardcover: 112 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 3, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374167338
- ISBN-13: 978-0374167332
- Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
With her essays regularly appearing in high-profile periodicals, anthologies and partisan-attracting books like Fierce Attachments and The End of the Novel of Love, Gornick is one of a handful of nonfiction prose stylists whose work is instantly recognizable to the literati and crititocracy. Based on many years' teaching in a variety of creative writing programs, Gornick's book discusses ways of making nonfiction writing highly personal without being pathetically self-absorbed. In admirably plain and direct style, she discusses writers as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Joan Didion and a man she calls the "Jewish Joan Didion," Seymour Krim. Part of the virtue of this book is Gornick's wide-ranging reading, which comprises less-than-household names like Jean Amery, a Belgium-based Holocaust survivor, and the noted Italian author Natalia Ginzburg. By excerpting and condensing freely, she presents chosen texts in speedily absorbed format, which is useful for the primer-style approach here, even if some of the original authors might object to being Readers Digested in this manner. All the texts do nevertheless support her statement that essays can "be read the way poems and novels are read, inside the same kind of context, the one that enlarges the relationship between life and literature." (Sept.) Forecast: Poised for a warm embrace in writing programs and college seminars, this slim tome from a nonfiction master will undoubtedly inspire young writers, while Gornick's loyal fans will enjoy her unmistakable erudition and felicitous prose.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Noted critic/essayist Gornick (Fierce Attachments) has taught creative writing for decades, and this is the repository of her experience. She divides her subject into two parts: the essay and the memoir. While the latter essentially reflects personal experience, Gornick reminds us that an essayist is also writing personally. Drawing on classic essayists from George Orwell to Oscar Wilde, Gornick analyzes the writers' lives and sees their essays as much as possible through their eyes. She is careful to distinguish the teaching of the writing process from teaching writing, which she dismisses as impossible. Using lengthy excerpts from her favorites, Gornick presents a psychology of writing. Teaching thus by example, she creates a spare but elegant tool. Recommended for academic and public collections.
- Robert Moore, Itworld.com, Southboro, MA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
When I purchased the book I knew nothing about it and mistakenly expected a discussion of memoir writing without frills. The book was more than that. Without a doubt, I think it is filled with essential information for aspiring memoir writers. If you happen to be an instructor yourself, there are questions you may find useful at the back of the book.
Granted that most memoirs and autobiographies seem to be written by Anglo-Americans, _The Situation and the Story_ is for everyone, but it’s not a how-to book. You’ve got to do soul searching, and you’ve got to love discovering words and how to use them. What Gornick says about writing is true for all: “A memoir is a work of sustained narrative prose controlled by an idea of the self under obligation to lift from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver wisdom” (91). In other words, the memoir you write is about yourself, but you can’t simply record everything, every time someone hurt you, or all the pains you have suffered. Writing about your life is an art and craft. Gornick quotes V. S. Pritchett: “You get no credit for living” (91). Of course, you do have to place yourself in context, within the circumstances of your life. No one that I know writes a memoir without writing about their parents, their town, or the schools they attended, or something about the world they’ve inherited. Gornick says you must know “Who exactly is this ‘I’ upon whom turns the significance of this story-taken-directly-from-life? On that question,” she continues, “the writer of memoir must deliver . . . with depth of inquiry” (92).
If you are not used to writing, why not start with paragraphs? Keep a journal, write a page a day, until you are confident with your use of language. Take a class in memoir writing, and find a group of people among whom you can find support. Above all, be careful where you get your identity, and don’t personalize all your failures. Look at the society in which you live. Gornick quotes from dozens of memoirs including from people who perceived themselves to be failures. Before you write a memoir, you must read what others have written. I’ve mentioned that Gornick’s book is not a how-to, but she is the best guide a person could ask for. What a wonderful journey her book has been.