29 December 2015

Memoir








As 2015 comes to a close I am reflecting on many of the enriching experiences I have had this year. So many of these take the forms of art, including literature -a daily pleasure. It turns out I have read a number of memoirs by writers and artist in this recent cycle of the seasons. What a delightful way to learn not only about others' lives, but life itself.

Among the books I have read is Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary (edited by Leonard Woolf), a journal she kept about her creative process -and the many things that encumbered it- over 24 years. Also an author's memoir, Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? That was such an illuminating look into the life of a contemporary writer I admire and feel a special affinity with. Cheryl Strayed's Wild was an adventure of another sort. I also received the gift of photographer Sally Mann's memoir, Hold Still. This book kept me up late with remarkable drama and suspense, as well as the amusing and stirring photos that illustrate it.


In some ways my favorite was Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings. The book was initially conceived as a series of three lectures Welty was invited to deliver at Harvard University in 1983. While I enjoyed all that Welty shared of her early life experience, and how that shaped her as an artist, I also appreciated the very structure of the book: "Listening", "Learning to See", "Finding a Voice". In it's three chapters -full of anecdotes and affectionate remembrance- she describes "coming to her senses" in personal and creative development.

I'm prompted to consider how I have learned to listen, learned to see, learned to speak in the various languages available to me. And further inspired to seek influences that will help me to listen, see and speak more clearly, reverently, eloquently.

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An artist living and working in Missoula, Montana.