The Situation and the Story
The Art of Personal Narrative
By Vivian Gornick
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Paperback, 9780374528584, 184pp.)
Publication Date: October 2002
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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.
Vivian Gornick's books include Fierce Attachments, Approaching Eye Level, and The End of the Novel of Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998. She lives in New York City.