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224 pages, Paperback
First published February 6, 2018
A friend of mine who is working on a memoir says, I hate the idea of writing as some kind of catharsis, because it seems like that can’t possibly produce a good book.
You cannot hope to console yourself for your grief by writing, warns Natalia Ginzburg.
Turn then to Isak Denisen, who believed that you could make any sorrow bearable by putting it into a story or telling a story about it.
I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest. Woolf is talking about writing about her mother, thoughts of whom had obsessed her between the ages of thirteen (her age when her mother died) and forty-four, when, in a great, apparently involuntary rush, she wrote To the Lighthouse. After which the obsession ceased: I no longer hear her voice; I do not see her.
Q. Does the effectiveness of catharsis depend on the quality of the writing? And if a person finds catharsis by writing a book, does it matter whether or not the book is any good?
My friend is also writing about her mother.
Writers love quoting Milosz: When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.
After I put my mother in a novel she never forgave me.
Rather than, say, Toni Morrison, who called basing a character on a real person an infringement of copyright. A person owns his life, she says. It’s not for another to use it for fiction.