Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Essays All the Time

So essays and memoir are two different entities, did ya know?

I wasn't exactly sure. Essays take the voice of someone speaking about an isolated incident that may soften or lessen as the essay progresses. Memoirs may use a similar voice, but the voice changes in accordance with the wisdom imparted. Instead of a voice, it's more important that the reader see the arc of a journey of that voice.

Hopefully that's as clear as mud.

Vivian Gornick's book (Situation and Story) is terrific for outlining the differences and I'll let her explain it better:

...[A]n essay rather than a memoir because the writer is using her persona to explore a subject other than herself: in this case, marriage.

If it had been a memoir, the focus would have been reversed.[The author] would have been using marriage precisely to explore--illuminate, define--herself. A memoir is a work of sustained narrative prose controlled by an idea of the self under obligation to lift from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver wisdom.

Truth in a memoir is not through a recital of actual events; it is achieved when the reader comes to believe that the writer is working hard to engage with the experience at hand. What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened. For that the power of a writing imagination is required.

Incredible, right?

I sure think so.

Lots of work for the day job today, finishing two freelance projects, and ready for spring now.

Currently reading: Bootstrapper's Guide to Business (Seth Godin)
Currently listening to: Gothica (Sarah Brightman)

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