Quotables: Dani Shapiro on the Serial Memoirist’s Plight

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“But some readers of memoir are looking for secrets, for complete transparency on the part of the author, as if the point is confession, and the process of reading memoir, a voyeuristic one. This idea of transparency troubles me, and is, I think, at the root of the serial memoirist’s plight. My goal when I sit down to write out of my own circumstances is not to make myself transparent. In fact, I am building an edifice. Stone by stone, I am constructing a story. Brick by brick, I am learning what image, what memory belongs to what. I am arranging the pieces that come my way, as Virginia Woolf suggests in her diary. I am attempting to make a piece of music as clear, as emotionally resonant and orderly, as a sonata. I am striving to make order out of chaos, which is the sweetest pleasure I know. When I succeed, I have a thing, this story, to offer. It isn’t me. It isn’t even a facsimile. I have used my life — rather than my life using me — to make something more beautiful and refined than I could ever be.”

Read the complete essay here:  “When You Write a Memoir, Readers Think They Know You Better Than They Do” (The New York Times, June 27, 2016)

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