“Believe in the Story”: Difficult Truths from Vivian Gornick

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

By M. Milam

Memoirville recommends… an interview with Vivian Gornick on The Rumpus.

How does an author write about real events and real people in an honest, poignant way without hurting people’s feelings along the way? That’s the heart and soul of this interview with Gornick, in which she talks with interviewer Sari Botton about how she approaches the issue, specifically how she wrote about her mother in her 1987 memoir, Fierce Attachments. Gornick attributes Joan Didion with one compelling answer: “A writer sells everybody out.”

Whether it’s fear of betrayal, incriminating claims, or just plain hurt feelings, authors of first-person non-fiction must grapple with a commitment to their stories and pressures from the people they are writing about. Gornick’s advice? “You have to believe in the story that you are telling more than anything else.”

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