How to Write an Autobiographical Novel Quotes

Rate this book
Clear rating
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
4,662 ratings, 4.44 average rating, 699 reviews
Open Preview
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel Quotes Showing 1-30 of 61
“To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth, but into it.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“What would you read to someone who was dying? Annie Dillard had asked our class. She wanted this to be the standard for our work. There, at the memorial service for my friend, I thought of another: Dying, what stories would you tell?”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“WE ARE NOT WHAT we think we are. The stories we tell of ourselves are like thin trails across something that is more like the ocean. A mask afloat on the open sea. There were moments before the memory’s return when I experienced what I now understand as its absence as not a gap but a whole other self, a whole other me. As if a copy of me had secretly replaced me. An android of me moving through the landscape, independent of the other me, exactly like me but not me. Every now and then, I could see the distance between us. Three times, in particular, this other self had appeared before me.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“When I am gripped with despair, when I think I might stop, I speak to my dead. Tell them a story. What am I doing with this life? They hold me accountable. I let them make me bolder or more modest or louder or more moving, but I ask them to listen, and then write.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“...you can lose more than you thought possible and still grow back, stronger than anyone imagined.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“I was by now used to people being surprised by me and my background, and their surprise offended me. I was always having to be what I was looking for in the world, wishing the person I would become already existed — some other I before me. I was forever finding even the tiniest way to identify with someone to escape how empty the world seemed to be of what I was.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“My job is to make something happen in a space barely larger than the span of your hand, behind your eyes, distilled out of all that I have carried, from friends, from teachers, people met on planes, people I have only seen in my mind, every favorite book, until it meets and distills from you, the reader, something out of the everything it finds in you. All of this meets along the edge of a sentence like this one, as if the sentence is a fence, with you on one side and me on the other. When the writing works best, I feel like I could poke one of these words out of place and find the writer's eye there, looking through to me.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Destroying art is practice for destroying people.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“The story of your life, described, will not describe how you came to think about your life or yourself, nor describe any of what you learned. This is what fiction can do - I think it is even what fiction is for.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Much of what I love about literature is also what I love about the Tarot - archetypes at play, hidden forces, secrets brought to light. When I bought the deck, it was for the same reason I bought the car: I felt too much like a character in a novel, buffeted by cruel turns of fate. I wanted to feel powerful in the face of my fate. I wanted to look over the top of my life and see what was coming. I wanted to be the main character of this story, and its author. And if I were writing a novel about someone like me, this is exactly what would lead him astray.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Most people misunderstand the crime of sexual abuse. They think of stolen youth, a child tucked under the arm and spirited away. But it isn’t like someone entering your house and stealing something from you. Instead, someone leaves something with you that grows until it replaces you. They themselves were once replaced this way, and what they leave with you they have carried for years within them, like a fire guarded all this time as it burned them alive inside, right under the skin. The burning hidden to protect themselves from being revealed as burned. You imagine that the worst thing is that someone would know. The attention you need to heal you have been taught will end you. And it will—it will end the pain you have mistaken for yourself. The worst thing is not that someone would know. The worst thing is that you might lay waste to your whole life by hiding.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“The weight of him pressed me out. I felt covered, safe; something dark in me retreated and, for what felt like the first time in the arms of a man, I felt safe. I was still me -- the switch was not flicked, but the terrible feeling haunting me then didn't reach me. Which is one of the things that love can feel like. Peter stayed there for some time. He may have fallen asleep at some point. And so it is that when I hear stories of how thin he became, I can't reconcile them with the weight of the boy who pinned me to myself, made me feel the place in me where I attached to the world.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Whenever I am back in the neighborhood, I sometimes pass my apartment from the street. I like to believe, stupidly, that if I were to open the front door again, in the back I would find my roses, huge from their seaweed tea and the many days of six hours' sunlight, perhaps growing legs, ready to push down the building and walk out to the street, striking cars out of the way and slicing the blacktop to ribbons. I want to think that they would miss me, their erstwhile tormentor, the one who pushed them so hard to grow, cutting and soaking them in the blazing sun from spring to winter. From the street, from across the river, where I live now without them, I can feel them still, the sap pulsing in their veins, pushing their way to the sky.

But the creature that grew legs and walked away from the garden was me. I was not their gardener. They were mine.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“...believing trouble is gone forever is the beginning of a special kind of trouble.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“51. What if the novel in you is one you yourself would never read? A beach novel, a blockbuster, a long, windy, character-driven literary drama that ends sadly? What if the one novel in you is the opposite of your idea of yourself?”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“There are two kinds of people, I think: those who want to know the future and those who do not. I've never met anyone ambivalent about this. I have been both kinds. For now, I think I know which one is better, but I'm prepared to change my mind again. It may be I am like that drunk who tells himself he can handle his alcohol now. But if I told you I could tell the future, you would laugh at me. And I would laugh at me too.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Novels are delicate when they are being written, if also voracious. They move around my rooms, stripping half-finished poems of their lines, stealing ideas from unfinished essays, diaries, letters, and sometimes each other. Sometimes, by the time I get to them, one has taken a huge bite from the other.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Something new is made from my memories and yours as you read this. It is not my memory, not yours, and it is born and walks the bridges and roads of your mind, as long as it can. After it has left mine.

All my life I've been told this isn't important, that it doesn't matter. And yet I think it does. I think it is the real reason the people who would take everything from us say this. I think it's the same reason that when fascists come to power, writers are among the first to go to jail. And that is the point of writing.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“My mother's most common childhood memory of me is standing next to me trying to be heard over the voice on the page. I didn't really commit to writing until I understood that it meant making that happen for someone else.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“A novel, should it survive, protects what a missile can't.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“I wanted to lead my students to another world, one where people value writing and art more than war, and yet I knew and I know that the only thing that matters is to make that world here. There is no other world. This is the only world we are in. This revisable country, so difficult to change, to easily changed.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“There's a reason that whenever fascists come to power, the writers are among the first to go to jail.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“...books were still to me as they had been when I found them: the only magic.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“...the only things you must have to become a writer are the stamina to continue and a wily, cagey heart in the face of extremity, failure and success.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Writing is work. Anyone can do this, anyone can learn to do this. It's not rocket science; it's habits of mind and habits of work.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“Yes, everything's been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. Your writing makes it possible.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“That afternoon, I tried to understand if I had made a choice about what to write. But instead it seemed to me if anyone had made a choice, the novel had, choosing me like I was a door and walking through me out into the world.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“What if the novel in you is one you yourself would never read? A beach novel, a blockbuster, a long, windy, character-driven literary drama that ends sadly? What if the one novel in you is the opposite of your idea of yourself?”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“What we lose with each death, though, is more like stars falling out of the sky and into the sea and gone. The something undone, the something that won’t ever be done, always remains unendurable to consider. A permanent loss of possibility, so that what is left is only ever better than nothing, but the loss is limitless.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
“The freedom to imagine that as yet unimaginable work in front of others, moving them to still more action you can't imagine, that is the point of writing, to me. You may think it is humility to imagine your work doesn't matter. It isn't. Much the way you don't know what a writer will go on to write, you don't know what a reader, having read you, will do.”
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

« previous 1 3