Friday, February 11, 2011

3 Minutes or less: Life Lessons from America’s Greatest Writers ~ a book review

    What would you share about the subject of illusion in three minutes or less?  It’s a great writing challenge, isn’t it?  Would you be interested in reading what some of America’s favorite authors wrote on that subject when invited to share a prepared speech with such a time limit? 
     Perhaps your favorite  American author has spoken at an annual PEN/Faulkner gala. 
3 Minutes or less: Life Lessons from America’s Greatest Writers is an anthology of over one hundred and fifty such essays published in 2000 by Bloomsbury.  Every year has had its topic. The collection includes eleven different topics each addressed by ten to twenty different authors. 

     Eudora Welty delivered one of my favorite essays of the collection on the topic of beginnings.  She speaks of her sense of her own internal timeline and experiences of being freed of clock time. 

Remembering, we discover and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge.  Our living experience at those meeting points is one of the charged dramatic fields of fiction.”

  Welty shares a passage from her novel,  The Optimist's Daughter,  that focused on confluence
“...which of itself exists as a reality and a symbol in one…Of course, the greatest confluence of all is that which makes up the human memory, the individual human memory.  My own is the treasure most dearly regarded by me in my life and in my work as a writer.”

     I felt intense freedom reading Russell Baker on the topic of illusion.  I won’t steal his thunder or explain why he says, “Our best use and our peculiar gift, if we have any, is our ability to sustain the precious illusion that the teller of the tales is not the author.”  

     Susan Richards Shreves shares the prescription given her as a young writer to tell the truth about the way things are, knowing that writing is none the less an optimistic act requiring hope about the way things could be. She illustrates this with a very personal story from her family’s history that left me with indelible images of the power of the imagination.  

     Other well plumbed topics included are Obsessions, Heroes, Confessions, Reunions, and of course Endings.  

     Some of the writers privileged to contribute to this anthology through their archived speeches are William Styron, Annie Dillard, Larry McMurtry, Rita Mae Brown, Maurice Sendak, Jane Smiley, William Kennedy, Sue Miller, Allan Gurganus, Jane Hamilton, and Thomas Flanagan to name just a few you might readily recognize.  

    From the clever and the confessional to the inspiring and profound, all of these essays are worth the three minutes they take to read and many of them invite reading again and again.  

     And having read, perhaps you’ll be inspired to organize and write what you would share in three minutes or less on a topic such as  First Love, Journeys,  A Lesson, or The Sense of Place.       


John said...

I am not sure I could fill up three minutes. I am more akin to Bill Cosby in the his story about go carts, where his life fasted before him and he had time for a replay. My life is composed of short vignettes randomly dispersed through the time-space continuum.
Thanks for sharing this book, I will definitely look for it.

Cousin B said...

Hello Jannette, thanks for stopping by my blog!

GretchenJoanna said...

I like that you shared from Russell Baker and Eudora Welty's words...I liked books by both of them so much. This book looks like a potential treasure trove of quotes!

the egyptian knight said...

Hi Jeannette,
I like your belog, keep the good work up
wishing u happy best of luck

Celeste said...

From your comment on my blog to this wonderful discovery, what a great way to start the day. I've now read several of your posts...a dip in a lovely pool indeed. Thank you. I'll be back.