A Swallow Press Book
“Larson applies his methods to some of the finest examples of the form, with exhilarating analyses of works by writers as diverse as Virginia Woolf, Frank McCourt, Mary Karr, Mark Doty, Dave Eggers, Andrew Hudgins, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Rick Bragg. The result is a book that deserves the attention of literary scholars and anyone attempting to add his or her own contribution to the genre.”
“Indispensable…arguably one of the two or three best references for those who teach and write nonfiction.”
“Larson shines as a reader. His always lucid style, wide-ranging and perceptively analyzed examples, and thorough bibliography of memoirs make the book a valuable reference source as well as a good read.”
“I’ve never met Thomas Larson, but from reading The Memoir and the Memoirist, I’ve concluded that I’d love to talk to him.... He draws on long experience as a reader, writer, and teacher to describe and embrace the modern memoir before it becomes fussed over and codified by academics.”
Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction
The memoir is the most popular and expressive literary form of our time. Writers embrace the memoir and readers devour it, propelling many memoirs by relative unknowns to the top of the best-seller list. Writing programs challenge authors to disclose themselves in personal narrative. Memoir and personal narrative urge writers to face the intimacies of the self and ask what is true.
In The Memoir and the Memoirist, critic and memoirist Thomas Larson explores the craft and purpose of writing this new form. Larson guides the reader from the autobiography and the personal essay to the memoir—a genre focused on a particularly emotional relationship in the author’s past, an intimate story concerned more with who is remembering, and why, than with what is remembered.
The Memoir and the Memoirist touches on the nuances of memory, of finding and telling the truth, and of disclosing one’s deepest self. It explores the craft and purpose of personal narrative by looking in detail at more than a dozen examples by writers such as Mary Karr, Frank McCourt, Dave Eggers, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Mark Doty, Nuala O’Faolain, Rick Bragg, and Joseph Lelyveld to show what they reveal about themselves. Larson also opens up his own writing and that of his students to demonstrate the hidden mechanics of the writing process.
For both the interested reader of memoir and the writer wrestling with the craft, The Memoir and the Memoirist provides guidance and insight into the many facets of this provocative and popular art form.
Thomas Larson is a critic, memoirist, essayist, and the author of numerous books, including The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease, The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” and two Swallow Press titles: The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative and Spirituality and the Writer: A Personal Inquiry. More info →
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A clear and comprehensive introduction for those with little or no experience in planning or undertaking oral history projects.
Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative traces Linda Tate’s journey to rediscover the Cherokee-Appalachian branch of her family and provides an unflinching examination of the poverty, discrimination, and family violence that marked their lives.
In a book-length essay on the evolving, improvisatory world of spiritual literature, Thomas Larson surveys authors old and new who have shaped religious autobiography and spiritual memoir. He shows just how the writer’s craft must prevail to capture the fleeting and personal truths of the spirit in an important addition to nonfiction craft studies.
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