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I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory

Hampl, Patricia

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ISBN 10: 0393047385 / ISBN 13: 9780393047387
Verlag: W. W. Norton, US, 1999
Gebraucht Zustand: Fine Hardcover
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Bibliografische Details

Titel: I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the ...

Verlag: W. W. Norton, US

Erscheinungsdatum: 1999

Einband: Hardcover

Zustand: Fine

Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included

Über diesen Titel


One of our most elegant and thoughtful memoirists reflects on memory and imagination. Memoir, that landscape bordered by memory and imagination, has become the signature genre of our age. In this timely gathering, Patricia Hampl moves back and forth between a series of story-like recollections and essays in which she considers how she has been "enchanted or bedeviled" by autobiographical writing --her own and that of others. Subjects engaging Hampl's attention are her family's response to her personal writing; a secret that an old Czech migr tries to confide in her; reflections on reading Whitman during the Vietnam War; the ethics of writing about family and friends; and the experience of reviewing Anne Frank's diary. In a wholly original conception of Sylvia Plath, Hampl --recalling her review as a young person of Ariel --writes her way out of the confines of memory and into the expansive province of the imagination. "A writer is first and last a reader," she says, and makes it clear that, for her, reading is a passion not a pastime. The word that unites the impulse within all the pieces is "Remember!" --a command that can be startling. For to remember is to make a pledge: to the indelible experience of personal perception, and to history itself.


In this collection of essays, Patricia Hampl attempts to explain the lure of the memoir. It is today one of the most popular literary genres, but not long ago, readers would have been hard-pressed even to find memoir sections in their favorite bookstores. Hampl, who herself is a memoirist of note (A Romantic Education and Virgin Time) opens the book with some of her own memories. She recalls a bus trip during the Vietnam War era to visit her "draft resister" boyfriend in jail. When the bus stops along the way in a small town, she notices a large, middle-age woman passionately kissing a very handsome, much younger man, or is it the other way around? The woman boards the bus while the young man runs along outside, blowing her kisses. She takes the seat next to Hampl and says with a sigh, "I could tell you stories."

This small event sets the stage for the rest of the book--it draws a narrative out of a mostly mundane moment and underscores the complicated nature of remembering events as they actually happened. She writes that because "everyone 'has' a memoir, we all have a stake in how such stories are told. For we do not, after all, simply have experience; we are entrusted with it." In the balance of the book, Hampl examines the autobiographical writings of St. Augustine, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, Edith Stein, and Czeslaw Milosz. In each instance, she attempts to uncover the writer's intentions and reveal the true secrets that lurk in the shadows of what's on the page. I Could Tell You Stories is an excellent investigation into what makes a story essentially worthy of being told and ultimately read--a good companion to whatever book is currently in your hands. --Jordana Moskowitz

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