Because I’m (Not) Easy Like Sunday Morning

This is what my street looked like last week, and why this week's sunshine is making me a little punchy.

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?


15 thoughts on “Because I’m (Not) Easy Like Sunday Morning

  1. Jess

    The memoir stuff is easy for me. Words flow out and I have a great time doing the work, particularly if it’s about something immediate, like teaching or the damn weasel that’s eating my chickens. But the fiction? Now that’s a slog. Worth it in the end, I hope, but a slog.

  2. lisahgolden

    Well, back in the day when I was easy, that was fun.

    Oh, wait.

    (Thanks for these passages. My pen and I are faltering because it’s not so easy. I am plagued with the So What? of it all.)

  3. erikamarks

    Teri, I just came back from the library with Roseanne Cash’s memoir to find this post. I am so eager to read her history, and of course, her prose. I think memoir-writing is such a challenging craft.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m either doing my best to support the publishing economy, or have book-related OCD — based on the half-read stack of books on my desk, I’m guessing it’s a combo.

      But honestly, Vivian’s book is great. She took a lot of heat when she wrote her memoir FIERCE ATTACHMENTS and held her ground with grace and steadfast belief in her work.

      1. Averil Dean

        Don’t hurt yourself, Baby. Teri’s a badass. But I worry that she’ll wall herself in eventually.

        This one, though, is screaming my name. I need these lessons. And why do I get the feeling, Teri, that you’ve pointed us unerringly to the very best passages of the book?

      2. Teri Post author

        Seriously Averil. With the way you write, that flippin’ office with its paperclip people, and those real suffering files. Nonfiction calls your name.

  4. amyg

    good find!

    i got that Naked Drunk Writing book via amazon last week that’s by the author/writing coach up in your area. i went straight to the “where to publish your essays” chapter and didn’t get far from there, but that’s not a fair review of the book as i was distracted by a few other biz books i’ve been eating up.

    all books matter, right? memoirs, erotica, business books, book about writers, books about writing, harlequins, sweet valley highs (and its 10 follow-up), chick lit, contemporary women’s fiction, fiction, science fiction, cookbooks…

    sorry, it’s late and i’m loopy and trying my damnedest to write a PR plan that will get me a gig. i’ll stop rambling (shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp,…)

    1. Teri Post author

      Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. On the San Fran wharf. Worst food you ever had, pinkie swear.

      But I did love old Bubba. Run Forest Run!!!

  5. Deb

    Ooo, this sounds like a good one too. The list is getting l-o-n-g. Love it! A few more stops to make then time to put the writer/editor cap on…

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