WHAT’s it ABOUT: This is a compilation of the responses to letters sent to the online Dear Sugar advice column at The Rumpus. I suppose I should go look to see if The Rumpus is still a thing – I had never heard of it. Seems to be! It’s linked here if you want to verify it, too. Are they the precursor to Book Riot?
Anyway, let’s talk about Cheryl.
She’s amazing, I’ve decided.
You may think otherwise based on my review of her memoir Wild about walking the Pacific Crest Trail as grief therapy and to find herself after she ‘lost her way’ when her mother died. You might think my opinion of her raised a bit after I gave a favorable review of Wild, the movie, starring Reese Witherspoon. (Only if I really did say it somewhere; I do think it was an excellent adaption — maybe even a better-than-the-book.)
The point is, the answers to the letters sent to Sugar are amazing. I found so much to admire and laugh with; I was moved to tears often and touched profoundly by Sugar’s capacity to use words of compassion balanced with firmness. She never judged. I was most impressed.
I felt Something.
To students in her memoir writing class: “What happened in this story? What is this story about?”
You get no points for living, I tell my students. It isn’t enough to have had an interesting or hilarious or tragic life. Art isn’t anecdote. It’s the consciousness we bring to bear on our lives. For what happened in the story to transcend the limits of the personal, it must be driven by the engine of what the story means.
RATING: Five slices of banana cream pie.
“I hope one of you will really bake me a pie (banana cream, please).”