I read this book because I’m writing my memoir, and I’ve recently signed with an agent, and he’s great, and he suggested I read this book. I think right now I’d do just about anything he asked me to do. Read Vivian Gornick, write fifteen hours a day, travel to Zimbabwe, jump off a cliff. It will make your book better, Juli. No problem.
Most of The Situation and the Story I read on the plane ride from New York to Shanghai. The first transcontinental flight I didn’t spend in a zombie state watching movies back to back for fourteen hours. It was that good!
Aside from the advice about how to write memoir, or personal essay (basically: find the story underneath the situation), what’s pretty interesting is Gornick's read on why memoir has really taken off in the past decade or so. Her argument is that for so long stories were about storytelling, about voice, and about character. Through modernism and postmodernism, however, the art of storytelling and the focus on voice diminished. Literature became about artfulness, about technique, experimentation, and distortion.
That’s all fun and good. But nowadays, in the age of democratized narrative (everyone can confess, testify, twitter, blog, star in reality tv), the craving for voice and experience and pure narration has reemerged.
An interesting argument. And makes sense when you think about how many reality tv stars and actors and bloggers get publishing deals based on the number of followers they have on social media. The democratization of narrative and the craving for voice. I wonder though, whether the interest in memoir has ever really gone away, or whether it’s just been categorized and better marketed. Augustine wasn’t writing a “memoir,” but he was. It’s a genre-d world.
Currently working on book number two – another memoir. Maybe I have two in me and then it’ll be fiction. Who knows.