How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
Shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
Named a Best Book of 2018 by TIME, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Paste, Bitch, Bustle, The Chicago Review of Books and iBooks
As a novelist, Alexander Chee has been described as ‘masterful’ by Roxane Gay, ‘incendiary’ by the New York Times, and ‘brilliant’ by the Washington Post. With How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, his first collection of nonfiction, he secures his place as one of the finest essayists of his generation.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s exploration of the entangling of life, literature and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these interconnected essays he constructs a self, growing from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckoning with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and America’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing – Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley – the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.
By turns commanding, heartbreaking and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.
Alexander Chee sifted through tales from his past to present golden insights into the way art can shape a life ... a singular and sincere writer of both fiction and nonfiction * TIME 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2018 * Alexander Chee is one of the best living writers of today. If he's not already a household name, he needs to be ... Powerful, powerful essays with powerful, powerful words * Buzzfeed's Isaac Fitzgerald, on NBC's Today * Chee's insights about writing, love and activism are hard-won, honest and incredibly wise * Curtis Sittenfeld, Guardian Summer Reads * Urgent and insightful * Viet Thanh Nguyen, Guardian Summer Reads * Pulses with urgency ... Chee has written a moving and personal tribute to impermanence, a wise and transgressive meditation on a life lived both because of and in spite of America, a place where, he writes, "you are allowed to speak the truth as long as nothing changes" * New York Times Book Review * These essays feel like a life's wisdom - its hurts, joys and redemptions - salvaged from a great fire ... This book makes me feel possible * Ocean Vuong * Two-thirds of the way through Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, I abandoned my sharpened reviewer's pencil in favour of luxuriating in the words. Chee's writing has a mesmerizing quality; his sentences are rife with profound truths ... Chee is a very special artist; his writing is lyrical and accessible, whimsical and sad, often all at the same time * NPR * Heartfelt, writerly essays ... powerful -- Alex Preston * Spectator * As profound as they are beautiful, Chee's essays impart wisdom from a life fully lived, and speak to what it means to be a writer and reader in contemporary times * Buzzfeed * It's so good that I could fill my word count just with quotations ... Every essay, no matter the subject, exhibits warmth, rigour, tact ... The mask conceals and it reveals; writing transfigures and it uncovers. That's the gift that writing has given Chee, and it's the gift that his wonderful new collection gives its readers * Boston Globe * A knowing and luminous self-portrait * O, the Oprah Magazine * There is indeed an art to the personal essay, and he is a master artist * Esquire * Unique and powerful, insistently itself * R.O. Kwon, Electric Literature * [A] trailblazing collection * Washington Post * Profound and resonant ... A nimble study in radical self-invention ... The revelations that follow crackle with the same glowing, essential truths * Wired * Rarely does a book of essays come along so affecting, so brave and bluntly honest, and so raw and poetic. I quit underlining my favourite aphoristic lines by the time I reached that third essay: it was useless to try to pick individual diamonds from a whole pile of them * Interview Magazine * I'm astonished by the wisdom of these essays, and how beautiful they are. A riveting account of activism and artistry, as well as a profound exploration of the intersections of identities and experiences that build up this novelist's composite eye. Alexander Chee is brilliant and brave in equal measure, and has written an essential book about how to survive as an artist in America today * Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You * How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is a rare hybrid of a book: an act of poetry, a gift of entertainment, and a primer for life. Alexander Chee is one of our most important writers and we should listen to every damn thing he has to say * Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up * Alexander Chee asks one of the great coming of age questions here: Isn't beauty strong? His welter of answers yields a really moving (and sometimes devastating) writing memoir of being young, of being someone and not entirely knowing it yet - all the while being so poetically receptive to the fragrant and devastating strains of beauty and beauty's harsh wisdom that wind up moving and shaping a life. It's a strangely romantic and practical book. It holds a skull lightly * Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls * An absolute gift of a book for writers everywhere. Every single essay is a pearl * Chicago Review of Books *
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