Personal NonfictionPrivate Non-Fiction
Personally-Identifiable Non-Fiction |
That Harvard Crimson
"The author of the personal tale draws from his own dull, excited self the spokesman for the truths that need to be narrated? "This is the basic issue that essaysist and reviewer Mrs. Gornick wants to address in her new volume The Situation and the Story:
It' the art of personal narration. Drawing on 15 years of lecturing on Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programmes, Gornick skilfully blends her own insights and 30 years of authoring experiences with non-fiction modeling from some of the best authors of contemporary essays.
The Gornick begins with the tale of a burial in which one of the eulogists stands out from the others: The question Gornick asked himself was why this orator, who had no particular understanding of the dead man, was so much more efficient than the other orators. Acting as composer of the laudation assisted the presenter in clarifying the theme of her talk and her own relationship to it.
In this way, the author constructs a storytelling person who stands out from the person and even from the author. For Gornick, this is a necessary part of the personal situation. Belletristic and poetic protagonists offer "surrogates" to whom the author can attribute the inacceptable longings or awkward mistakes in his or her personality, which he or she seeks to articulate, while the storyteller has to disclose these mistakes in the non-fiction.
Gornick's assertion that the storyteller must accept a person who must not "fall into the pits of denominationalism or side therapies or bare self-absorption" is an exact and important observance. The author is able to turn the unique into something that can be felt and comprehended by others by making a self-contained narrative.
Writers become the links between writers and readers so that they can sense the truth that writers try to convey through history without the writer's self-righteous moaning or pride intruding. George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" is used by Gornick as an example of the meaning of the storyteller's part.
In " shoot an elephant" Orwell takes on the role of the "involuntary truth-speaker, who implies himself not because he wants it, but because he has no choic. "This is the tale he told as the man who was caught between his own hate for capitalism, his work as a policeman in sub-Burma and the venomous, often malicious natives who lured and mobbed him.
For Orwell, it has created a personality that is extremely credible and almost lovable to the readers and can thus convey their stories to them. On the first 10 pages Gornick can already clearly explain the meaning of the complexity of the relation between storyteller and subjective and lay the foundations for understanding and expressing this one.
But, in a way, Gornick is missing this unique chance. A leading dramatist with an extensive work on her name, Gornick has a wide range of personal essay works that she can use to illustrate how she seeks this storytelling person in her own name. And who better to tell where she was triumphant and where she was missed out than the author herself?
There' re days when Gornick seems to be doing just that. In her early books she described a textbook she had written about Egypt at the beginning of her carreer, which offended the history of her poor self comprehension and her state. She never provides quotations or parts of her books, and without a reason in the text her description sounds too theoretic and abstracted.
Later Gornick described a more succesful experiment of personal narrative - a memory of herself as a kid, her mom and a wife who was living next-door. It was more succesful because she had started to understand the importance of who told the tale. "Once again, Gornick shows none of the works that have emerged from this new interpretation, and their insights remain theorical.
Whilst Gornick finds it difficult to direct the critic's gaze inward, she balances this with an in-depth, discerning examination of some of the most important personal articles of the 20th cent. It divides the works into two categories: essay in which the storyteller investigates a theme through his own relationship to it, and memoir in which he investigates himself through an outside theme.
Gornick's justification for her trade comes not only from express claims like this, but also from the profundity and clearness of her critique and the situation and history itself. Although she might have used more of her own scriptures to clarify and illustrated the meaning of the story of the story, and sometimes she seemed to loose sight of the point as she looked at and discussed many of the works she loved.
Nevertheless, the situation and the story remain a unique, clear and amusing little novel that shows a deep and passionate sense of the personal narrative that few could have. Gornick in the short but beautiful summary of the volume tells her drive to start composing the volume after 15 years of MFA programmes, her disappointment at the excessive emphasis on how to compose and not why to do so.
I have learnt that you cannot educate men how to spell.... everything that is innate cannot be learnt - but you can educate men to learn how to judge a play of writing: their own and that of others.
" Theseeed is what distinguishes Gornick's work from the mystery of lyrics for would its writer, allowing him to become an important implement for all the readers who are looking for greater comprehension of the skill of literacy and typing of personal articles.