Stunning personal writing in parts; in others, deep literary analysis of key historic memoirs. Hampl and Elaine Tyler May with essays by 14 memoirists including the editors. Tell Me True: Memoir, History and Writing a Life came out from Borealis Books the trade division of the Minnesota Historical Society Press , co-edited by Ms. I just picked up a new novel the other day, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. One of my absolute favorite novelists is Lynn Freed, a beautiful South African writer, and my favorite of hers is The Mirror, which is quite stunning. Hampl mixes autobiographical stories with thoughtful readings of Whitman, Augustine, Plath, Gertrude Stein, Anne Frank, and others which led me to meet some of these writers anew.
And in fall 2008 Tell Me True: Memoir, History and Writing a Life came out from the same imprint, co-edited by Ms. I don't, for instance, have a single recollection of my first arithmetic lesson, the first time I studied Latin, the first time my grandmother tried to teach me to knit. And why it's worth pausing for a moment to consider what a first draft really is. Like lyric poetry, memoir cavorts through time and space, trailing its long ribbon of associations. Things are not that simple. Essays that provoke and evoke one's own thoughts about one's history, one's experience, and certainly, our memory of those experiences. For one, the sense that she was never quite at the center but always on the outside looking in—feeling, as F.
I see the filmy shape of the next draft. In first period home-room, though, Mrs. But at the moment Mary Katherine Reilly was at my side, playing something at least two or three lessons more sophisticated than my piece. But it was also the beginning of major league expansion. Not even in grad school. Whatever else we think of the form, none of us would be inclined to trust a writer who fabricated those truths. What sort of snob was I? If Heaven and Hell were truth and lie, respectively, then memoir would be the common ground, Earth.
I do believe she wrote with all honesty. Memoir has got a kind of Tristram Shandy quality. Sister Olive struck it again, finding it with laughable ease. The next draft of the piece would have to be a true re-vision, a new seeing of the materials of the first draft. Why is memory such a poor narrator, particularly at such crucial moments? Hampl intended to write memoir, but unintentionally wrote fiction. To have lived always in the same place is not the same as being a homebody.
The spiritual journey here is one of rediscovery: after turning away from Catholic dogma, she once again opens herself to the mysteries of faith, prayer, and contemplative life. When I began going to Czechoslovakia as it was called then , it had been thirty years, almost to the day, since the end of the Second World War. It also showed how a writer can use personal anecdote to talk about another topic entirely. I don't know why I remembered this fragment about my first piano lesson. I trusted her instantly and smiled, glad to have my hand placed in the hand of a woman who made sense, who provided the satisfaction of being what she was: an Olive who looked like an olive. Some writers and editors contend that memoirists should remain faithful to the facts and events, much like good journalists are expected to do.
Or, if this happened sometime during the first week of school and not on the first day. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Bush Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts twice, in poetry and prose , Ingram Merrill Foundation, and Djerassi Foundation. That happened repeatedly, even in the Sylvia Plath essay which is weighty with contemplation. Historic truth rests on such testimony. Indeed, she uses the language of surrender to describe her writing process. All hyperbole aside, there were other cultural and historical events, other forces, other people—entertainers, politicians, writers, and so on—that came to bear on the personal story I was telling. On the day I wrote this fragment I happened to take that memory, not some other, from the shelf and paged through it.
I do not necesesarily agree with how much imagination Hampl put into her essay but I agree that some liberties are necessary to create a well-written personal essay. Her honesty came forth after she went on to explain why she invented these memories. And I appreciate these more serious moments, but often I find myself more drawn to her more personal moments that show her intellectual prowess through more personal subjects like Mrs. Augustine, Czeslaw Milosz, Whitman, Edith Stein, Anne Frank, and Sylvia Plath. When I was writing Virgin Time, I went with a group of nuns and priests to Assisi, and we started out in Rome for an audience with the pope. Her style can get very academic-- dense and complicated ideas in a very matter-of-fact tone. Frank Conroy published Stop-Time in the sixties.
Take the case of Andre Dubus. Scott Fitzgerald edited and with an introduction by Patricia Hampl. But first Sister Olive must do her work. You need to give readers a reason to keep turning the pages. In doing so, then likely the inconsistencies in his stories would have been realized sooner and saved the paper from the embarrassment they received when Vanity Fair brought this expose to light.
By 1992, the form was established. Why would somebody who had nothing particular to impart and was thirty-something years old write a memoir? What motivates us to do this? Virgin Time, about her Catholic upbringing and an inquiry into contemplative life, is available in a recent paperback. The heart, the guardian of intuition with its secret, often fearful intentions, is the boss. I met her in Girl Scouts and only went to school with her later, in high school. The voice whispering in our ear is that of a clear-eyed, sympathetic, and above all wise friend who craves not our laughter or applause though she wins both but our conversation. Sunlight flooded the room; the pianos, all black, gleamed. The memoirist tracks, she is filled with wonder.