Sunday, December 5, 2010

Last memoir Course

I had no idea what to expect when I first enrolled in this class. I wasn’t sure what a Memoir actually was. I just thought it was another named for an autobiography. After the first week of class, I knew better. I guess I have to differentiate between a regular memoir and a literary memoir.  When I read memoirs at first, I read them for enjoyment. I thought to myself, “Oh that’s cool they experienced that.” I still think like that, but I know now there is so much more.
I’m surprised what goes into a memoir. The process of writing a memoir was much more difficult than I thought. It never occurred to me a writer’s memory was unreliable. It just never crossed my mind. The stuff that I was reading may not have happened. I mean it’s impossible for someone to remember everything about their childhood in a detailed manner. What I was reading was probably made up. I also realized that was ok. Even though these events were altered one way or another, as long as the truth behind them is factual then it makes it a Literary Memoir.
Memoirs are very personal. The memoirs that we’ve read, there is a central character, but there are also secondary characters. It’s ok to tell your story, however what about someone else’s story? We learned Karr’s methods of protecting her friends and family. I like the idea of having people choose their fake names in the story, so no one would know it was them, but at the same time it creates a individualized costume in which only the writer knows. What I find most difficult is asking permission or having to bring up intimate stories of the friends or families that I want to write about. Some people don’t want to discuss their story, which is understandable. I wouldn’t want to press the matter either, but sometimes stories crossover and I have to ask myself whether or not I can put this in my memoir.
The amount of bravery one needs to write a memoir is astounding. Some of the things we’ve read, with Angelou’s rape story to Karr’s estranged family, make you wonder can I be as brave as these writers. My view on memoirs has changed a lot in the past 13 weeks. I can learn something about myself whenever I read a memoir.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Night and Literary Quality

Night is an incredible book that recounts a tale from the Holocaust. Making this a personal account rather than a historical one adds more depth that no History book could do. When you read a book from history, you tend to look at it from the outside in. Also, since it’s from History we think it’s from a long time ago. People forget that the Holocaust was a recent event and some of those people in the Holocaust are still alive today. We become disconnected to the horrors these people faced in the concentration camps.
The personal account puts the reader inside the bubble. It allows the readers to be able to relate to the characters in the story. It hits the readers not only on a mental level, but on an emotional level as well. It’s history, but it’s not. It’s a story, which could be our story.
There are literary qualities to this memoir: scope and intent and larger truth. Night covers a particular period in Wiesel’s life. It addresses the challenges he had during the Holocaust, mainly surviving. The result of it becomes the larger truth- losing hope, faith, and humanity during a horrific time in one’s life. Millions of people have went through the Holocaust, and millions more couldn’t fathom of what atrocities these people went through, however we can still relate. Our struggles aren’t as bad, but we still experience events that put us down-that make us wonder why bad things happen to us. We aren’t stealing bread crumbs from the dead, but we do curl up in bed hoping tomorrow will be better.
What Weisel did took a lot of guts. Writing something about your past is hard, writing something about your past that you want to forget is almost impossible. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t even know if I have any difficult struggles to write about. I lived a pretty happy life compare to Wiesel’s so far. I’m sure I can write about my struggles of being poor, being Asian, or living in the shadows of my older successful brother, but that’s just life.  If I had to write about it, I would try to add humor to it, kind of like what Karr did for The Liar’s Club. I don’t like writing about gloomy events. I try to learn from them as much as I can, and when I do I try and forget about it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoreau's Memoir

Thoreau’s Walden is a memoir. Not your regular memoir, but it does have all the necessary characteristics to be a memoir. Thoreau writes about his two year experience living in nature. A social experiment, Thoreau details the story with his feelings about trying to live simplicity. I would call this either a philosophical memoir or a self-help memoir.
I thought having no dialogue would make the book slow moving and unexciting. However I was wrong. No dialogue made it more his story. He didn’t need to worry about developing characters because there weren’t any. We got into the character’s head and see how he came up with those insightful thoughts of living simple. “To be awake is to be alive.” He wasn’t necessarily alone though. He gave the trees, plants, anything dealing with nature a great deal of life when he describes them with imagery.
The theme of living in nature and simple of it is timeless. Even during Thoreau’s time where they didn’t have the internet and fast cars, people still were caught up of wanting things. Another thing that his time and this time have in common is people. We tend to be dependable on people: whether it’s our parents, our love ones or a drug dealer. Thoreau’s sums it up in this sentence: “I have a great deal of company in my house, especially in the morning, when no one calls.”
Unlike other memoirs we read so far, he chose this lifestyle. I feel it would have been a lot different if he was poor and had to live in nature. Maybe we would’ve gotten a more depressing viewpoint of what it was like to be alone in the woods. Still I find it commendable for someone to give up everything that he had to find out what it means to live a life of simplicity.
I like the idea of putting yourself out there. Why not find adventure instead of waiting it to come to you. If you’re a writer it makes you think of things you could write about. The subjects are unlimited. With me, it's this girl sitting next to me who I plan on marrying.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eggers Creative method.

Eggers had an unusual approach when he told the readers that he lost his parents. Instead of telling the audience directly, he inserted a play-like format in his story.  I find it acceptable if it doesn’t take away from the story. At first, it confused me. The story began at an open house when Dave escorted his brother to the school. We find the intentions of Dave, “I was looking to score.”
To me this is where the story was heading. I was pretty excited to read what will happen next. Then, we found out why he was actually there. His new found responsibilities of a guardian to his little brother due to the fact that his parents were lost. It was an interesting approach.
He breaks the story up. It makes it more entertaining to the reader, however was it necessary? I don’t know if it was. I believe the story was going to be just as enjoyable if the play-format wasn’t there. It does create insight on the mind of Dave. It’s not same bland, “Hey my parents are dead.”
When about to introduce to themselves to other parents he gets “ready for the script.” Like most first interactions it’s scripted. Once I reread the thing over again; I found it humorous that he wrote a play-like script of a scripted conversation they are used to having. This made me like the creative way of introducing his parent's death.
I would love to do something creative to be put in my memoir, but I know how unusual or distracting it can be. Unless I know it moves the story; it would be safe just not to do it. One of the worst things I can do is add something that doesn’t matter. Yeah, I might get some laughs, but that’s not the point of the story.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Conroy's Stop-Time

The Jaguar scene gives us a preview of things to come. It allows readers to see the driving force of the entire book, anger.  Why does someone try and tempt death by driving so fast? Who is this person? How did this person come to be? These questions are in the readers' minds, and now they are hooked for the ride.

The scene I choose to write about is the introduction of Lucky. I believe he is the catalyst of Frank's sexual ways. I don't know if he would turn out the way he did if he didn't know Lucky, but he would've had a year or two of more yo-yo playing.

We were first introduced to Lucky, Frank’s cousin, when Frank catches him playing by the water. Lucky, who is a couple of years older than Frank, watches the water as if he was an Olympic swimmer.
Lucky is at the age where puberty comes into play. “Judy’s tits are so big she has to watch it going around corners. The other one has red hair down to her waist.”(120) “Do you realize that in a very few minutes little Miss Titties will be ever so graceful slipping out of her teeny little bathing suit.” (121) He’s a womanizer and wants Frank to know that. Only girls are on his mind and that’s normal for a guy his age.
We see the transformation of Frank from kid to teenager when he is invited to come with Lucky to watch girls undress themselves. Here Conroy creates a scene of anticipation with humor. “I leaned forward and spread the branches farther apart. Sweet Jesus! She was undoing the belt of the bathrobe! She was….‘Eeeyow!’”(131).
The scene reads like a novel. It so happens that Lucky’s pet squirrel attacks Frank just right before the girl is completely nude. It does, however, work with the story. Since these are just high intense scenes that usually involve risk taking, it would be less exciting just to see the girl undress and nothing happens. In the end Frank runs away with Lucky as his joys of yo-yo playing is left behind.
I think the best way to create an intense scene without fabrication is seeing things that people forget to see. A writer’s gift is seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary and with this can help make any scene more intense. I still have problems with it though. I might take out things that just so the story flows better and have a 180 ending that a reader can’t guess, since I didn’t leave any clues for them to follow. I

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hampl's First Draft-Second Draft-Revision

A memorist can’t rely on their memory. So why do we even try to recall things? Hampl’s essay discusses her own inconsistencies and how she makes fixes it.

When writing a personal narrative, we tend to add things to make the story a good story. Hampl distorts things, but she doesn’t know she’s doing it when she’s writing the first draft. It’s only after she re-reads it when she discovers the inability to recall certain events in her life accurately.

She says in the essay, “To tell a story, it is necessary to put something first, then something else”(34). Hampl doesn’t know what she is going to write about, so “the first attempt is to create a shape”(34). Instead of having a blank of paper, we need to just write and put things in to figure out what we’re going to write about. Sometimes the story takes a different direction and that’s when the inconsistencies come in. We input things we’re not entirely sure if they were true or not, but it enables us to connect things from A to B.

Once we have the first draft done, we can find out what direction we want to take and at the same time see the mistakes we made. We then “feel a relationship developing between a former self and me”(35). Things start clicking, we remember things much more vividly, and we get the connection not only between self and older self, but to the world as well.

“True memoir is written, like all literature, in an attempt to find not only a self but a world”(35). A memoir captures more than one’s self journey, but it enables us and the readers to find a bigger truth. A memoir to me is more than just a person’s story, but it’s my story as well. That’s why some memoirs I feel more of a connection than others just because I can relate to some of them more personally.

I agree that her memoir captures “the life-of-the-times as no political analysis can.” We get more intimate with a memoir than with a political analysis. For example, we know what happened at the concentrations camps, but a memoir of a prisoner shows us how it felt.

A memoir doesn’t has to be factually accurate, but it better be close to it. We can’t rely on anyone’s memory, but we don’t read a memoir because of someone’s memory. We read them to get the truth from those memories. As long as the writer tells the reader that, “hey, I tried my best to be fully accurate, but I’m not perfect” then I’m ok with it.The line is drawn when you need to create an event. If you have to change a word here or there, fine that’s ok, but creating an event that never happened just to make the story sound better is wrong.

I am writing a memoir about my current life now, and to make it accurate I keep a daily journal on what happened. I change the names of the people, and if anything that I write I’m not sure of its accuracy, I will tell the readers that I’m not sure if this happened this way. I want to be honest to the readers and when I can’t be, I tell them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Salvation and Hughes

Langston Hughes wrote two kinds of conflict, man vs. man and man vs. society. We see the man vs. man conflict mostly through interior thought, “So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I’d better lie, too….” Throughout the story he was confronted by the people in the Church to see Jesus and be saved, however he couldn’t see Jesus. The actual scene may have been less than a minute long, but that was enough time to see the internal struggle with this dilemma. He was confused on why he wasn’t able to see Jesus and why the other children in the church did. He got more confused when Westley, the last person besides him who was sitting down, told him, “I’m tired o’sitting here. Let’s get up and be saved.” The internal conflict was him lying to himself to please others.

The more visual conflict was man vs. society. During his internal struggles, he had to face with the external conflicts of the church congregation singing and moaning to him. The minister directed his attention to him, “Why don’t you come? My dear child, why don’t you come to Jesus?” His aunt sobbed and cried to him to see jesus. He wrote a powerful image displaying emotions that was around him and his inner struggle of coping with the whole thing.

I did find it peculiar though that his decision was based on time then the things that were going on around him and not being saved, “Now it was really getting late. I began to began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long.” He went through all of this as a kid and it was very fitting that his decision was based like a child.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Discussing problems and protecting myself

I like how Karr interweaves the fiction and fact stories together. It's like playing the game two truths and one lie, however your not trying to pick out the truths. Karr uses novel technique to make it read like a fictional story. If you are someone that is worry about people judging you, Karr's style for Liar's' Club is a good book to look at.

Karr's way of protecting herself and her family is a good guidline for memoir writing. I'm writing It's important to ask people's permission before writing them in the story, especially if you are telling a story that is something personal about them. Morally, I find it wrong telling someone else's story without them knowing it. And even if they said yes, but had second doubts about it, I wouldn't let other people read it. Personally, I need to make sure everyone in my story is satisfied before letting people that I don't know read it.

Adding stories about other people's problems, I would follow Karr's guideline and change their names. Having them pick their names is a great idea. It let them have more of a say in the book.

I'm not that type of person who likes to talk about his/her problems. I don't have self-esteem issues, but I would say I'm a little insecure. I worry about what my friends think about me and I'm constantly trying to get the approval of loved ones. To most people, I'm the definition of the nice guy. The type of person that is easily forgotten, but is fun to have around once in awhile.  Watching movies on Friday nights, reading at a cafe on Saturday evenings, and running on Sunday mornings is a typical weekend for me. Most of my friends and family think they have me figure out. He doesn't like to party, hates the night life, worksout all the time, and keeps to himself.

The problems I do have aren't ones people expect me to have since a lot of the people don't know who I really am. It's not like I live a dual life, but I act differently around people who aren't my friends. I would say some people that I've met for only a couple of weeks know me better than some of my friends since high school. They don't know my standup comedy days, the late nights, the sex life etc. 
If I was writing a memoir, my friends and family wouldn't believe any of it. They would think I was writing a fictional story based on my life.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nabokov and Voice

Nabokov’s voice is an older man looking back at his love of butterflies as a child. His voice is very appropriate with the material, since personally I feel it would be much different if he used his child’s voice. To get what his child’s voice would sound like, we would need to understand his childhood. He lived in a very wealthy household. He was loved by his parents and he learned how to speak three languages at an early age. He was quoted to say that his childhood was in fact, “perfect.”

As you can tell this is very different than Frank’s childhood. Although I would find it interesting to see what the voice of Nabokov would sound like, I feel that it wouldn’t be relatable than Frank’s child voice. He would have gain the sense of innocence, something that was happy and enjoy to read. However we seem to relate better with hardship than success. It is usually the better story as well. No one wants to read something that is just fluffy, sunny, and happy. That’s what I feel like if Nabokov spoke this story as a child. It would sound something like this, “ I saw this beautiful butterfly and it made me feet happy. “ The story was just about him playing with butterflies. The story itself is not very exciting. What made the story was Nabokov’s adult perspective on it. His use of vivid imagery and play of words made the story interesting to read. Frank’s voice played a vital role in the story. He created a truthfulness of his child’s voice. He misspelled words and one long-run thought after another. It worked because his story was about hardship and how his childhood was very much different than others, but we could still relate to it.

He was an entomologist and a writer. What a great way to blend his two professions together by writing a story about butterflies. To make it less scientific, he chose the scene of chasing butterflies as a child. It was a good mix of use of scientific vocabulary and sensual imagery. He combined the two together letting the reader in about his love of butterflies and the nostalgia of being a kid running through the fields again.

I feel like if I was writing a memoir I would use my voice and inner thought when the story was
happening. The adult perspective of looking back is hard for me because sometimes I even wonder why I did the things that I did as a child. To be honest, I was a weird child. I feel like most of the time I would call myself an idiot while talking about an event that happened in my past. However if I was writing the story as a person in the past, it would seem like I was an intelligent child who had the whole world figured out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Angela's Ashes and Child Perspective

When a kid is explaining to me something that happened in his life, I usually take it with a grain of salt. I don’t think kids are liars, but they tend to exaggerate certain situations and use words that they don’t mean to use. When reading Angela’s Ashes, I was torn whether or not to believe him. The dialect and use of words gave me an image of a kid telling a story, however since it was so insightful with vivid descriptions, it was hard not to believe Frank.

If he was writing this as an adult looking back at his childhood, I feel like it wouldn’t be as real. It might have been more thoughtful, but since I was looking through a child’s perspective, I felt like it was actually happening in front of me. I wasn’t outside looking in, but rather inside his head feeling what he felt, seeing what he saw. The misspelled of words created a more realistic feel of the story. We were really able to get in the head of character. Frank does a good job of describing what he saw and letting the reader into his mind as well. He had a good balance of inner dialogue and what was happening around him.

This is what writing in present tense does for me. You are with the character which doesn’t know what will happen in the future. When something is written in past tense for me, it’s like watching a movie that you know the ending already. It’s more exciting for me when the character does not know how it’s going to end. This I feel puts you more into the story. I tend to follow the character better and try to figure out what will happen next instead of knowing the general outcome already.

Writing Exercise:

Thanh Huynh’s Writing is Ugly.
My dad is yelling at me. Does he know I don’t understand what he is saying? We’re in America, please speak American. Getting a B on a report card isn’t the worst thing in the world. Plus it was a B in handwriting. I write fast. People who write slow finish last. Plus it was a B… in handwriting. Who really cares? People can still read what I wrote. I just write small. I have small hands. I don’t know how to write big yet. He is giving me a weird look now. I guess he’s done talking. I should probably say something.
“Yes, I will do better next time.”

The hardest part in writing in a child’s perspective to me is making sure the voice of the words is of a child. There were a bunch of times that I would use words that second grade me wouldn’t even know. I know that as a kid, I didn’t have long insightful thoughts. They were usually quick and straight to the point. I had a lot of fun though doing this exercise. It’s cool to see what I felt as a kid.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dinesen and the Lost World

I think now more than ever that people would find Dinesen's description of Africa like it's a lost world. His descriptions of Africa are very detailed; describing the land and animals of this place.  Dinesen tells us how we are supposed to feel and think of this lost world, by putting us in the story by telling it in the second person.

"Everything that you saw made for greatness, and freedom, and unequalled nobility." When someone describes something to me as freedom and greatness, I imagined a scene from the Lion King where everywhere it's just an open plain where animals roam with nothing to worry about. I feel a little uneasy of not being able to think of a place that he is describing. I've hiked mountains, did trails, and went to jungles in Vietnam, however I always new just like a 30 minute drive away I could be in a city where I can get a wireless internet service.

By telling it in second person, I feel like it's his way of showing people what this place is really like. It would be easy to describe it in first person, however I'm sure he knew that a lot of people haven't seen like a place like this before, so it would be hard for them to relate. By doing it in second person, he can tell the reader directly this how you feel, act, and thought about being in Africa.

I read somewhere that a lot of people still think of Africa as jungle place where you would see a zebra just walking around in the streets. I guess that's not the case, since it's been really modernized in the past 50 years. Everyone has cell phones and computers over there.

My favorite part of the introduction is the first paragraph on page 348 where he describes the animals. He's describing it in first person, "I had seen a herd of Buffalo....I had seen a herd of Elephant...I had seen the royal lion..." When I read it out loud, I felt like I was reading poetry. It had a great flow to it and I can imagine what these animals felt like/looked like to Dinesen.

I'm currently in South Korea now and a lot of it has been Westernized. For some people it's really cool since if they missed American meals, they can go to a McDonalds or call McDonalds. Yes, McDonalds does delivery here.  You have to go far and know where to look if you want to get the real culture of South Korea.

After reading the whole intro, it makes me sad that their isn't a place like this close to me where I can visit. I want to ride a Giraffe.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings centers around the story of the struggling childhood of an African-American girl named Marguerite. Even though it talks about a specific childhood, in a specific time period that in my generation may not have experienced, I feel this was a timeless story. What makes it timeless is the themes that were in the book, which people can relate to. With such themes like racism, sexism, identity, and rape, this book will evoke deep thought to anyone that reads it.

Maya uses vivid descriptions and her sense of humor to recount the hardships she faced as a kid. Her use of dialogue and wording of sentences made it seem very geniune as a young child was writing it. She established her voice well from beginning to end. We could see the growth of the voice as she grew older. It's incredible that she experienced all of these things in a lifetime, let alone before she was 18. One event in particular was at the end in the story wher she decides to have sex with a guy because she was worried that she wasn't a female. She then gets pregnant and finally accepts who she was as a mother to end the book.

There was a lot of shocking moments for me just in the last 20 pages. I found it amazing though that she just took it in stride. I never read this book before, so I was quite shocked at the ending. It was an ending that I didn't see, kind of what a fictional writer would do. But since it's real, you know this person is something special. To me this story represents the idea of the “American dream.” Only in America where someone can endure so much pain and still rise up and become something better. It gives people hope I think. She was raped, homeless, an unmarried teenage mother, and still was able to work past that and become a very successful writer.

Writing Exercise:

I remember my first day of school. I woke up early because I wanted to dress myself. I didn’t know where mom put my cool Spiderman shirt, so I decided just to wear the clothes that I slept in to school. I had a bowl of Fruit Loops for breakfast. After that I put on my Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle backpack and walked to school with my Mom. The problem was I was still an hour early before school started, so I sat on the front porch, while my mom watered her flowers ears suddenly feel from my eyes when I saw the first kids walk to school. I couldn’t stop crying. I’m not sure what it was. Maybe I was afraid of going to school or the realization that I will be alone with a bunch of strangers. I started walking to school with my mom who was holding my hand.

This exercise was hard for me since I don’t really remember what was going on around me, but just how I felt about the situation. I remember my movements vividly and what I was doing, but I was very unaware the smell, the texture, and the look of the scene. I mean I can pretend what the weather was like, or how the Fruit Loops tasted, but I can't honestly say if that was true or not.