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The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative
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The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  83 ratings  ·  16 reviews
The memoir is the most popular and expressive literary form of our time. Writers embrace the memoir and readers devour it, propelling many memoirs by relative unknowns to the top of the best-seller list. Writing programs challenge authors to disclose themselves in personal narrative. Memoir and personal narrative urge writers to face the intimacies of the self and ask what ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Swallow Press (first published 2007)
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Stephen Gallup
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I reached the end of this book, without pausing I turned back to page one and began it again. That's because the author put far more thought and insight into this ambitious undertaking than I was able to absorb in one pass.

The modern-day memoir--life stories written by ordinary folks--has vocal detractors. Some dismiss it as facile self-absorption. Others recoil from the lurid sensationalism found in certain examples and extrapolate from that to the whole genre. Thomas Larson, perhaps for
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book saved me from my madness. I am one of many who have found themselves writing memoir. I didn't choose this genre, it chose me and I am on a journey of trying to figure out what it means to write memoir. Thanks to Thomas' book, I am now okay with writing about the me then using the me now and that it is okay to modify the story using a lens that is different than the lens I looked through when I first experienced the subject matter to my story. He also gave some great suggestions on what ...more
Oct 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: memoirists, critics
While I appreciate Thomas Larson's personal philosophy of memoir, I felt like this book generalized his own approach to contemporary memoir to a large degree and romanticized the writing of memoir over other genres. I believe it takes every bit as introspective of a person to write a good novel or a good poem as a memoir.

I bet, though, that he's a great teacher. I found the book inspiring as a writer's guide (which is, to be fair, the area of Powell's in which I found the book) but disappointin
Susan Lampe
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Author and teacher Larson dives deep into exploration of the genre of memoir and personal narrative, expressing his experience and insights. He tracks the development and history of memoir since its debut in the l980s. Interesting views on the importance of connecting past with present in memoir, how authors do this and why age enables a better perspective on life experience. He also explores "Sudden Memoir" as a part of this genre. An essential companion for anyone writing or teaching the Memoi ...more
Jul 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, about-writing
I should have loved this book. Themes include the psychology of memory, honesty. Identity, persona, narrative voice, as well as other topics. Jung is frequently quoted. Memoirs cited include a variety of types from well known writers, less well known writers, and unpublished writing from groups that he has taught. I love all of that. The problem for me is that most chapters feel like a description of memoirs and a critique of the author's psychological development. The book should be fascinating ...more
Louise Julig
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is fascinating. As opposed to a how-to, it’s an exploration of the process of writing a memoir and how the writing of one’s story in turn affects the writer. As Larson states in the Preface, “Why is it that when we write of what we remember, the effect on us now is so important?” Those memories are not just “out there,” they affect us again as we write them. He examines quite a number of memoirs to illustrate different points as he goes along in this exploration. I highly recommend it.
Chuchu Chuchu
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book. It is very interesting and provides a detailed descirption and analysis of memoirs. I've read a lot of books about writing about the self but this one is certainly the best!!
Deserves 5 *
Shirley Showalter
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book will help the reader/writer get to the really difficult, and rewarding part, of writing memoir. The concept of persona different from the self in the story is essential to writing well. Larson teaches memoir, uses case studies from his classes and classic memoirs for illustration of his ideas. Among the dozen or more books I have read about memoir, this one stands out. In fact, when I think of the task of revising my own memoir draft, I know the best education I can get on persona is i ...more
Kathryn Marie
I loved what I learned from this book. Personal narrative is a valuable writing genre to learn and exercise as I believe memoir and narrative skills carry over in to other kinds of writing. Larson also helped me to think about memory and my own experiences and how they can/should/do/don't/won't appear in my writing. ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Even though I was really skeptical of memoirs, and really bitched about having to write (a partial) memoir for class, I'm obsessed with my drafts and am proud of how it turned out. This book was sort of helpful; I would have preferred to read more memoirs to learn about various styles and techniques instead of just reading about them. ...more
Feb 25, 2009 is currently reading it
So far so godd. My complaint with a lot of books on craft is the lack of academic rigor that goes into organizing the material: lists of books considered, citations for recommended titles, etc. This has all that and more.
Sheri Fresonke Harper
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Larson offers excellent examples of different memoirs and provides commentary about them in terms of how memoir is structured, written, and encourages. The book tells of his experiences with a writing group and some of the writer's challenges with time and theme and structure. ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very honest and thought-provoking account of what it means to write a memoir. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that our present condition affects the memories we access from the past.
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Extremely tasty insight to prepare me for future projects and rewrites on my current projects. Delicious!
Aurora L.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it
An analysis of recent memoir. This book made me want to read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
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Thomas Larson is the author of The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" from Pegasus Books, September 2010."


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