Yesterday morning, a memoir writing question from Downith led me here …
Vivian Gornick’s THE SITUATION AND THE STORY is a teeny little book with a slew of practical, succinct advice about the art of personal narrative. If you’re out there wielding a pen, trying to figure out how to stitch your true stories into an art form, you’ll find good guidance here.
“Truth in a memoir is achieved not through a recital of actual events; it is achieved when the reader comes to believe that the writer is working hard to engage with the experience at hand. What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” (p. 91)
“You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness. If you read a book, or shuffle a deck of cards, or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself.” (p. 141)
These are two of the many passages I underlined when I read this book eight years ago, back when I was writing short personal essays, before I ever even considered writing a full-length memoir.
Funny. It’s not gotten any easier …
But what fun would easy be?