Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing Paperback – September 16, 2014 by Anya Von Bremzen (Broadway Books)

I bought Mary Karr's "Liars Club" three years ago when I first began writing my memoir. I loved her writing style and was both inspired and intimidated. I just finished this book and it does such a great job breaking down key components to the craft using examples from Karr's own work as well as works by other authors from classic to contemporary. If you are writing a memoir or thinking about writing one I strongly suggest picking this up. You will learn about the importance of voice and how to find yours and stay true to it. The art of showing, not telling (which is where I need the most help). How to use/select specific details to make scenes feel more carnal and truer to the reader. And get advice on things like how to handle writing about family and topics that may be sensitive to them. You can really tell that the author is a teacher–some chapters feel like they could actually have been taken from a lesson plan–but that's what makes this book so much better than some of the others I've read about writing memoirs that were penned by agents or other industry professional types. This book isn't just a list of general tips/advice. Mary Karr is a true master of the craft and digs deeper, providing examples to give the reader a better understanding. It's almost like sitting in on one of her classes. Which after reading this book, I'd really like to do. I wish this book had come out three years ago before I started writing but now I am using what I learned to revise and edit the manuscript I have. The only negative for me was one or two of the chapters focused too much on a particular author who's style and voice didn't resonate with my taste (Nabokov for example) so I glossed over those pages. But everybody's taste in books are different. That said, in my humble opinion, this is the best book written on the craft of memoir that I have read to date.

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