The Short Review: A stunning collection of essays. We’ll written, thoughtful, introspective, accessible, and what you should be reading right now.
The Long Review: How To Write An Autobiographical Novel is a great title, not just for this book, but for the ideas that we have about writers of fiction. Lauren Groff, Sigrid Nunez, and many other authors have played with the expectations of readers, and the ways we assume all books are just thinly veiled memoirs. Alexander Chee continues this conversation in this book of essays, but in ways you might not expect.
First, for any of you who want to know if this is a great book about writing. The answer is yes, but not how you might think. Instead of giving you a blueprint of what worked for him, Alexander Chee shows you his journey as a writer and a person and how he’s landed where he is now. There’s an essay called ‘100 Things About Writing A Novel’ that is amazing, thoughtful, funny and actually very helpful. You’ll have to read it to know why, but just trust me. His other essay, “How To Write An Autobiographical Novel’ is exposing and it makes you understand where this line between fact and fiction can sometimes be. I think that can be helpful to young writers who want to know if it’s okay to be inspired by their own life or to include elements of themselves in characters. I greatly enjoyed this aspect.
The writing in this collection is stellar. I mean, I literally held my breath for paragraphs at a time, just taken away by the beauty of his sentences.
While I don’t know him personally, he seems very honest in these essays. It never feels like he’s making his life worse to heighten the melodrama or to manipulate the reader. It’s his life, and the good and the bad feel honest and real and perfect for it. Which, I will say, I did find so many moments of his life heartbreaking, and I cried multiple times while reading.
Pretty much, I just loved this book and it felt as if it were written for me as a reader in mind. I know that doesn’t help everyone, but I know others who had just as strong a reaction to it. I think his honesty, the quality of his writing, and the way he approaches the world makes you hold tight and never want to let go.
If you haven’t read this, I say give it a try. If you have read it, I’d love to discuss! Comment your thoughts down below!!