the importance of the imagination, in memoir (Jen Percy on Brian Turner)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brian Turner's immaculate memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, is reviewed today in the New York Times Book Review by Jen Percy.

The book itself is so well worth reading. (My thoughts about it are here.)

But the review is also a glory, opening with this paragraph about the importance of the empathetic imagination in memoir. Empathy may be nearly impossible to teach. But it does differentiate the great memoirs from the merely articulate ones, the we stories from the me tales. It's what should matter most to the makers and readers of memoir.

Jen Percy speaks of all this with bright, crisp words. Her entire review can be found here.

There’s a persistent idea in our culture that what we experience is “true,” while what we imagine is “untrue.” But without exploring the possibility of imagination in nonfiction, we leave out a fundamental part of the human experience — digressive wanderings, the chaotic interior self and, most important, our empathy. Empathy, after all, starts as an act of fiction. We must think ourselves into the lives of others.


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

"the we stories from the me tales"

This phrase captures so well what makes a memoir matter, what to aim for.

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