I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory

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9780393047387: I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory

The author of A Romantic Education reflects on how memory and imagination play a role in autobiographical writing, recalling various times in her life that have impacted her career as a writer.

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Review:

In this collection of essays, Patricia Hampl attempts to explain the lure of the memoir. It is today one of the most popular literary genres, but not long ago, readers would have been hard-pressed even to find memoir sections in their favorite bookstores. Hampl, who herself is a memoirist of note (A Romantic Education and Virgin Time) opens the book with some of her own memories. She recalls a bus trip during the Vietnam War era to visit her "draft resister" boyfriend in jail. When the bus stops along the way in a small town, she notices a large, middle-age woman passionately kissing a very handsome, much younger man, or is it the other way around? The woman boards the bus while the young man runs along outside, blowing her kisses. She takes the seat next to Hampl and says with a sigh, "I could tell you stories."

This small event sets the stage for the rest of the book--it draws a narrative out of a mostly mundane moment and underscores the complicated nature of remembering events as they actually happened. She writes that because "everyone 'has' a memoir, we all have a stake in how such stories are told. For we do not, after all, simply have experience; we are entrusted with it." In the balance of the book, Hampl examines the autobiographical writings of St. Augustine, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, Edith Stein, and Czeslaw Milosz. In each instance, she attempts to uncover the writer's intentions and reveal the true secrets that lurk in the shadows of what's on the page. I Could Tell You Stories is an excellent investigation into what makes a story essentially worthy of being told and ultimately read--a good companion to whatever book is currently in your hands. --Jordana Moskowitz

About the Author:

Patricia Hampl lives in St. Paul, where she is Regents' Professor at the University of Minnesota. Patricia Hampl is the author of two highly acclaimed memoirs, A Romantic Education, to be reissued in paperback by Norton, and Virgin Time. Her last three books have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She is the recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship.

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Patricia Hampl
Published by W. W. Norton (1999)
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Hampl, Patricia
Published by W. W. Norton (1999)
ISBN 10: 0393047385 ISBN 13: 9780393047387
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