Taking readers on a 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, and Marguerite Duras.Taking readers on a 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, and Marguerite Duras.Read Less
Gornick shows us how various essayists and memoirists, from classic writers such as Thomas De Quincey to Joan Didion and James Baldwin, work out the idea of self into a story that shapes experience, transforms event, and delivers wisdom. It's not so much what has happened to the writers, but rather what they make of what happened. This is not a "how to" write a memoir, but a close analysis of each writer's voice and "style" as it's revealed in how they each try to come to grips with who they are. Gornick's insights take one's breath away.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-06-18 With her essays regularly appearing in high-profile periodicals, anthologies and partisan-attracting books like Fierce Attachments and The End of the Novel of Love, Gornick is one of a handful of nonfiction prose stylists whose work is instantly recognizable to the literati and crititocracy. Based on many years' teaching in a variety of creative writing programs, Gornick's book discusses ways of making nonfiction writing highly personal without being pathetically self-absorbed. In admirably plain and direct style, she discusses writers as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Joan Didion and a man she calls the "Jewish Joan Didion," Seymour Krim. Part of the virtue of this book is Gornick's wide-ranging reading, which comprises less-than-household names like Jean Amery, a Belgium-based Holocaust survivor, and the noted Italian author Natalia Ginzburg. By excerpting and condensing freely, she presents chosen texts in speedily absorbed format, which is useful for the primer-style approach here, even if some of the original authors might object to being Readers Digested in this manner. All the texts do nevertheless support her statement that essays can "be read the way poems and novels are read, inside the same kind of context, the one that enlarges the relationship between life and literature." (Sept.) Forecast: Poised for a warm embrace in writing programs and college seminars, this slim tome from a nonfiction master will undoubtedly inspire young writers, while Gornick's loyal fans will enjoy her unmistakable erudition and felicitous prose. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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