How It Was (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
Retiring in the shade after a recent upheaval of some sort—the birth of a child, separation from a spouse, moving across country, retirement—we can find ourselves compelled to take stock of what we’ve done in life. Sometimes going beyond the easy tasks of a financial or friendship inventory, we might be tempted to make serious value judgments of ourselves by asking such questions as, “What am I really doing here? Am I entitled to this? Or to more? Maybe less?” In How It Was, Mary Hemingway allows herself two deviations from the formulaic methods of evaluating one’s circumstances from time to time: first, after seven or eight years in the writing, her book appears fifteen years after her husband’s death in what seems to be recollected tranquillity; second, she shows no sign of cautious moralizing or self-justification of her life up to the present. Instead, she clearly relishes the remembrances of her life, despite its many frustrations and traumas. This last feature of How It Was characterizes the book as a fine work—because the author herself is extraordinary, and her reading public has much to learn from her.
Actually, the extraordinary nature of the author is only one of several criteria that can be used in a critical study of any autobiography. Certainly one can’t be held literarily responsible for the plot or character development of one’s own life in retrospect. But what any writer of an autobiography...
(The entire section is 1836 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
Best Sellers. XXXVI, January, 1977, p. H5.
Harper’s Magazine. CCLIII, December, 1976, p. 89.
Los Angeles Times. November 21, 1976, Books, p. 1.
New York Times Book Review. September 26, 1976, p. 3.
Newsweek. LXXXVIII, September 27, 1976, p. 98.
Saturday Review. IV, October 2, 1976, p. 24.
Time. CVIII, October 18, 1976, p. 104.
(The entire section is 38 words.)