Tag Archives: Mariner Books

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel - Essays by Alexander Chee Title: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
Author: Alexander Chee
Publisher: Mariner Books, HMH
ISBN: 978-1328764522
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

It isn’t easy to write a book of essays that charts life. And when you come across a work that is so lucid, questions the world and has so many identities rolled into itself, that you just have to sit up, take notice and devour it cover to cover. “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays” by Alexander Chee is one such collection of finest essays of our times and that is mainly because it is as honest as it can get. There is something about books that come from the heart – they manage to get through to you breaking all pretense and that’s what this collection of essays does to you. It gets through.

Alexander Chee’s writing was only known to me through his earlier literary fiction works, “Edinburgh” and “The Queen of the Night” which I loved immensely. This is his foray into non-fiction and I just hope that he continues writing many such essays. What I found a notch above the essay collections I have read in the past couple of months in this one was just the candid and heartwarming way in which they are written.

Chee doesn’t shy from talking about his life, his struggles and his perception of the world at large. When you write non-fiction, you become more susceptible to judgment than when you write fiction. Everyone may not have an opinion about the storyline or characters but one sure does have an opinion (maybe more) on the world and its issues.

Chee’s essays range from growing-up in America and how different identities take over his life – a son, a Korean American, a gay man, a student, a teacher and a novelist amongst others. I loved the way he connected his life to his country and its issues and everything just seemed one. For instance, the section on AIDS and then again on 9/11 were most hard-hitting to me. When he speaks of literature (there are so many references throughout the book), you just want to sit up and listen. I for one, remember re-reading so many passages about writing and what it takes to be a writer.

Alexander Chee’s essays are wry, real, political (everything is political in today’s time and age), and above all makes us ask questions of art and life and what happens to it all, when they come under attack. “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays” is hands down one of the best essay collections of 2018 and I am not speaking too soon.

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A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas Title: A Three Dog Life
Author: Abigail Thomas
Publisher: Mariner Books
ISBN: 978-0156033237
Genre: Memoirs
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I chanced upon this book through “By the Book” and I think it was one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s favourite books and since I love what she writes, I went by her recommendation and read this one. This book is not a happy read. But it is honest, heart-wrenching, true and hopeful as well.

Abigail’s life comes to a standstill when her husband Rich gets hit by a car and his brain is shattered. He cannot comprehend anything. He remembers her in bits and pieces and her life is completely torn apart. She has to rebuild her life around this tragedy, and her new family is of three dogs and hence the title.

The book is deeply profound and emotional. Abigail’s views on life, death and continuing after the partner is no longer able to even recognize you is extremely touching and strikes a chord with readers. She grapples with guilt, with relationships that exist and with living a single life, thinking about the husband who isn’t dead but isn’t alive either.

The writing is so poignant and yet so hopeful with the dogs providing so much solace and comfort. The bonds that are formed between man and animal are so beautifully portrayed in this book. To me “A Three Dog Life” is a quiet meditation on what life goes through when it falls apart and how it heals and repairs beyond everything and more.