IN THE PAST HALF CENTURY, electronic media and a trend away from speech and recitation in the teaching of literature have resulted in student writers and readers who are too little aware of the sound of good writing. Years ago, much of culture was connected to the spoken word—by recitation at school, programs at oratorical societies, amateur theatricals, and reading aloud at home—but today all that has largely been lost. The writer’s task involves restoring the physicality of words to give them life.
“Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Most experiences happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art.”
—Ranier Maria Rilke
Tobias Wolff’s Old School follows fictionally on his memoir This Boy’s Life with grace and humor, a morality tale on the challenge and difficulty of drawing a fixed moral.
Sandra Scofield’s memoir of her grandmother, subtitled “Reflections on a Plainswoman’s LIfe," recounts the complex heart of a family. Smart, generous, a short masterpiece.
Frank Conroy’s memoir Stop-time became an instant classic on its first publication in 1965 and has remained steadily in print as a defining inspiration for other memoirists.