The Situation and the Story

How did you come across the book?

… I have no idea! I don’t remember. Probably… graduate school? I may of come across it… oh, you know what… OK… I remember, sorry! This was recommended to me by Rob Spillman who’s one of the editors at Tin House News, also a sometimes professor at Columbia University in the writing program.

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

Ooh! Um… I feel like I have to pull my notes out! One of the biggest takeaways for me, because this is a book about essay and memoir, its about personal narrative, and one of the biggest takeaways for me is that an essay is exploring a topic through the lens of the narrator’s persona, whereas a memoir is exploring the narrator’s persona through different topics outside the narrator. And so, that really gave me a lot of perspective on my own writing and in ways that I could kind of come at the self obliquely through other topics.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

I would recommend it to somebody who is probably a later writing student, or an experienced writer. The first time I read it, it went over my head a little bit, and so, I’m not sure that it would be helpful for many people, but, there is a great reading list kind of worked into it because she goes through all of these different examples of essays and memoir and personal narrative in the book. But, I’d probably save it for somebody who’s stuck on their current writing project.

Infinite Jest

How did you come across the book?

I actually heard of the writer himself first from a friend of mine. He recommended to me a commencement speech from the same author called ‘This is Water’, and after reading that I decided to look at a couple of his fictional works because I prefer fiction over nonfiction. So, I read his first novel, which was ‘The Broom of the System‘, and umm… because I kind of liked his style I decided to go on to this one because it’s known as his magnum opus, and so… a lot of people sing high praises for it, but a lot of people also kind of criticize it for being so lengthy and just kind of like rambling, but I think that it will be an interesting read.

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

I mean the thing is… more than a perspective from the book… like from the information from within the book, I think it’s teaching me something about being a reader, and I think it’s… it’s making me realize just how, I guess… how much more I have to read, or how much more I have to experience through reading itself, because… it’s like I’m reading the book, and I’m like going right to the dictionary because I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know what this means, I don’t know what this means!”, I think that just… it’s also kind of… it’s kind of really an awe-inspiring feeling knowing that there are so many writers that are just so talented. I’m actually majoring in English so I… I’m like… perhaps looking forward to publishing something in the future, but just knowing that there are geniuses out there who can use diction so freely… and such complex symbols or analogies with… ease… it just… it really humbles the reader. So, it’s teaching me a lot about just how much work I have left to do.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

Umm… I think… so, I did say that I read a previous book of his, ‘The Broom of the System‘, but I also read a series of his essays… just really recently; it’s called ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again‘. What I’ve heard from people is that… because this is quite a lengthy book, unless you’re really invested, or unless you’re really curious about the author or the book itself, I think that you’ll find it really difficult to continue reading it, because I find myself sometimes struggling through a page but I’m just like, “OK, I know what to expect from the writer”, because of his previous writings, so I’m kind of looking forward to it no matter how lengthy it is. So, I think if someone were to get into this writer, I would recommend his essays first… and then I would recommend maybe reading ‘Infinite Jest‘.