From Laura Wexler’s “An Interview with Patricia Hampl”

This quote appears in The AWP Chronicle (now The Writer’s Chronicle), March/April 1998 issue.


On autobiography vs. memoir:

“A memoir .. takes on the narrative and formal demands of a novel: How to draw the reader forward? How to establish theme through incident and portraiture? What holds it all together, and what keeps it all moving forward? Chronology – which is autobiography’s bedrock – is the most flaccid, lifeless response to those questions. So the very thing that would seem to be the basis of autobiographical writing – a life over time – is not the ground the memoir can stand on. It has to root itself in the same dilemmas and adventures of poetry and fiction. It has to make a story. In doing that, it has to disregard a lot of the life.” – Patricia Hampl


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