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The Art of Time in Memoir

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Sven Birkerts is the author of "Reading Life: Books for the Ages," "Readings," "The Gutenberg Elegies," and a memoir, "My Sky Blue Trades." He teaches at Harvard University and at the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the editor of "AGNI." He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts. In "The Art of Time in Memoir," critic, editor, and memoirist Sven Birkerts examines the human impulse to write about the self. "Memoir is, for better and often for worse, the genre of our times," Birkerts writes. But what makes one memoir memorable and another self-serving? What determines the difference between graceful disclosure and sensational self-exposure? Birkerts argues that the memoirist's strategies for presenting the subjective experience of time reveal the power and resonance of the writer's life. By examining memoirs such as Vladimir Nabokov's "Speak, Memory," Virginia Woolf's unfinished "A Sketch of the Past," and Mary Karr's "The Liar's Club," Birkerts describes the memoirist's essential art of assembling patterns of meaning, how the work stirs to life our own sense of past and present. "The Art of Time in Memoir "is part of "The Art of" series, a new line of books by important authors on the craft of writing, edited by Charles Baxter. Each book examines a singular, but often assumed or neglected, issue facing the contemporary writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. "The Art of" series means to restore the art of criticism while illuminating the art of writing. Of the series, Baxter writes, ""The Art Of" series is meant to restore criticism as an art, with writers examining features of their craft in lively and colorful prose."

"Respected critic Birkerts has written an insightful appreciation of the memoir form, works that occupy a growing . . . place in our literary culture. Analyzing five ways different writers have chosen to transform their memories into coherent narrative, Birkerts discerns the underlying principle of the memoir form: balancing two perspectives by revisiting significant ev

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