Tuesday, February 7, 2012
My students are reading Vivian Gornick this week, whose The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative is a must-read for memoir writers. In her concluding pages she offers up an idea about what shapes the future for books. She offers no formula, of course—that isn't possible. But I like what she has to say about intersections.
Writing enters into us when it gives us information about ourselves we are in need of at the time that we are reading. How obvious the thought seems once it has been articulated! As with love, politics, or friendship: readiness is all. When a book of merit is trashed upon publication, or one of passing value praised to the skies, it is not that the book, in either case, is being read by the wrong or the right people, it is that the wrong or the right moment is being intersected with. This book, good or great thought it may be, sinks like a stone because what it has to say cannot be taken in at the moment; while that book, transparently ephemeral, is well received because what it is addressing is alive—now, right now—in the shared psyche.