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The Situation and the Story: The Art of…
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The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

by Vivian Gornick

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The book suggests that good memoir is that written with the correct voice, mimicking the story being told. When that happens the memoir has emotional clout and approaches universal truth. The book does this by presenting numerous examples. ( )
  snash | Apr 2, 2010 |
One book was required and one book was recommended for the eight week class I’m taking this summer on writing personal narratives. This was the recommended book. I read it and a Western on the plane ride from Houston to Salt Lake. A quick read.Not sure I took much away from this book. Did I miss something? It seemed to be a series of short essays where the author analyzes what works in good personal narratives. But what did I retain from reading this book? Just an idea about going with one’s gut feeling about what works. Maybe I need to read this again. ( )
  debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |
The Situation and the Story explores the difference between what a personal essay/memoir seems to be about on the surface (the Situation) and what it's really about in a larger sense, on a deeper emotional level (the Story). It also explores the importance of creating an effective narrative persona -- one that can get to the Story.

The book gets terrific ratings here and elsewhere, and it did interest me in reading the full versions of some of the writings Gornick excerpts. But overall, I connected so little with it that I was tempted to abandon it, then give it away. Until the end, when Gornick writes a sort of when-the-student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-come passage -- which made me decide to instead tuck it away, to reread when it fits better. ( )
1 vote DetailMuse | Nov 18, 2008 |
A useful and eminently readable take on the art of the personal essay. A good follow-up to Phillip Lopate's opus on the subject.
  sungene | Nov 4, 2007 |
What I gleaned was that successful writing depends upon knowing what you are really writing about. Lots of interesting examples from books that I now want to read!
  tjsjohanna | Apr 28, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374528586, Paperback)

A guide to the art of personal writing, by the author of Fierce Attachments and The End of the Novel of Love

All narrative writing must pull from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver a bit of wisdom. In a story or a novel the "I" who tells this tale can be, and often is, an unreliable narrator but in nonfiction the reader must always be persuaded that the narrator is speaking truth.

How does one pull from one's own boring, agitated self the truth-speaker who will tell the story a personal narrative needs to tell? That is the question The Situation and the Story asks--and answers. Taking us on a reading tour of some of the best memoirs and essays of the past hundred years, Gornick traces the changing idea of self that has dominated the century, and demonstrates the enduring truth-speaker to be found in the work of writers as diverse as Edmund Gosse, Joan Didion, Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, or Marguerite Duras.

This book, which grew out of fifteen years teaching in MFA programs, is itself a model of the lucid inteligence that has made Gornick one of our most admired writers of ninfiction. In it, she teaches us to write by teaching us how to read: how to recognize truth when we hear it in the writing of others and in our own.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:41 -0400)

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