Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Every time I teach memoir or essay, I yearn to be writing it again. This happened to me during the online book club ("Literature of Bearing Witness") that I was recently leading for the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania. Memories leak. Assertions are disproven. The mind set free veers, trembles, and ultimately discovers something that might have been, something that might still mean something. If only we knew for certain what about any of it was/is/could be argued into true.
Reading Klaus put me right back into that danger zone—that thirst for trying to write the personal all over again (and yes, dear readers, I do realize that I write the personal every day on this blog). Klaus gave me new essays to read (note to self: read more Didion; get a copy of David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," get Anatole Broyard's Intoxicated by My Illness). He gave me experiments to try out on myself. He gave me cause to think, and he made me smile, and it was all delivered with the kind of companionable prose that made me feel like I was in a classroom, which is where, so often, I want to be.
I have said this a few times this year; I grow redundant: We have entered, I believe, a new era of memoir making and personal essay writing. An era in which the forms feel noble again—better explicated, more sound, more open to new possibilities. I grow increasingly tempted to write toward the true.