Living to Tell the Tale
It clearly had to happen: given the lava flow of memoirs into bookstores and onto bestseller lists over the past several years, someone was bound to produce a how-to manual for this increasingly popular and presumably lucrative literary form. Readers ought to be thankful that, in the event, Jane Taylor McDonnell was finally the person to do it. An experienced teacher of writing at Carleton College and the author of NEWS FROM THE BORDER: A MOTHER’S MEMOIR OF HER AUTISTIC SON (1993), McDonnell is excellently positioned to provide both the broad rationale for the genre as well as the specific technical advice that such a text must offer if it is to succeed. That this text does succeed is clear.
McDonnell begins by countering the notion that the writing of memoir is self-indulgent, an exercise in self-absorption which celebrates only the assertive voice of the “I” and troubles itself very little with the concerns of a wider human community. Far from being an insular practice, writing personal narratives, she argues, is one way to develop clear, fully-actualized citizens, individuals who have a larger understanding of themselves and consequently of the world those selves occupy. In short, the personal memoir is a form of the examined life.
Her book begins with a powerful dictum : “Writing is a second chance at life. . . All writing constitutes an effort to establish our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment. In...
(The entire section is 393 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Living to Tell the Tale Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!