How To Write an Autobiographical Novel
Catching up some book blogs…
I read this book a few weeks ago and I can’t get it out of my mind.
Alexander Chee (who teaches at Dartmouth!) wrote a collection of essays, How To Write an Autobiographical Novel, which tells stories of both of Chee’s life and his feelings on writing craft. It’s both a memoir and a teachable book. There’s personal essays about Chee growing up as a Korean American in Maine, his first time in drag in San Francisco in the 90s, about living in Mexico for a summer, about tarot, and one about the AIDS crisis that will break your heart. But there’s also reflections on writing that will make you want to be a better writer. Even if you’re not a writer!
Here’s one essay, if you want a taste: “Mr. and Mrs. B” (which is in the collection but was first published in longreads). It’s about Chee working as a waiter for William F. Buckley, who famously wrote that people with AIDS should be tattooed on their wrists and buttocks.
And here’s one blurb that I particularly loved, from Ocean Vuong: “These essays feel like a life's wisdom, salvaged from a great fire. I feel in possession of a map of secrets and second chances, holding an inheritance whose gifts have only been partially revealed to me. But these essays are more than maps; for me, as a younger writer, they are the very ground, the earth made solid enough so that I might stand here, made rich enough so that I might plant here, and, thrive here. This book makes me feel possible.” (Emphasis mine.)
It made me feel like I could become a writer that I aspire to be. Rating: ★★★★★