An ingeniously constructed teaching memoir from the author of the bestselling On Writing Well -- "You learn without knowing it." (Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes) Written with elegance, warmth, and humor, this highly original "teaching memoir" by William Zinsser--renowned bestselling author of On Writing Well gives you the tools to organize and recover your past, and the confidence to believe in your life narrative. His method is to take you on a memoir of his own: 13 chapters in which he recalls dramatic, amusing, and often surprising moments in his long and varied life as a writer, editor, teacher, and traveler. Along the way, Zinsser pauses to explain the technical decisions he made as he wrote about his life. They are the same decisions you'll have to make as you write about your own life: matters of selection, condensation, focus, attitude, voice, and tone.
Zinsser’s style is humble and consistently strikes the right tone for sharing the memory. That skill – sharing memories – is the essence of a memoir and is exactly what this work comports to the reader. Instead of merely preaching rules at us, Zinsser illustrates his principles by showing us from his life what he remembers about the past.
He demonstrates that good memoirs do not have axes to grind and are not overtly polemical. Instead, he nimbly and gently brings us into his own past. His writing is always respectful and stays far away from a judgmental tone. He invites the reader to explore the world with curiosity much as Zinsser models a curiously exploration of his own world.
I’m left curious to explore some of the writers that Zinsser cites as interesting authors of memoirs. I’m also left wanting to read his other work on writing a memoir entitled Inventing the Truth. His writing is so easy-going – deceptively so as he makes communicating complex ideas seem so easy. One can see why Yale undergraduates loved his writing classes and his serving as headmaster of a college.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves writing and wants to learn how to master this craft with her/his entire life.