“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates
Since my early initiation into the world of books and writers, I have believed that both writing a book and unfolding its myriad mysteries by reading it are solitary pursuits. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that as I went on with this pursuit, this journey myself, I came to discover that while reading every new book, I somehow became one with the psychological, spiritual journey of the author himself. As a young reader fresh out of college, I still remember how passionately I used to read the classic English as well as regional novels, short stories and other works in prose, while the fictional world created by the authors used to sweep me away in so much charm and stupor that it became an alternate world where I could see myself inhabiting easily, effortlessly. I guess what resonated with me in that charmed state, like billions of other readers, was that the work was a projected reality born out of the writer’s faith, conviction and vision of life.
I had been initiated into the world of nonfiction, memoirs and autobiography a little later in life. While exploring the world of nonfiction writing, I had been more compelled to understand or grasp the spiritual journey of the authors, the challenges and the incentives of crafting moments, experiences of their own lives that mattered to them and the readers. The nonfiction works that I found most appealing during this period were quite vast and varied in their content and scope. My readings included the wide gamut of autobiographical nonfiction writing, memoir writing and creative or literary nonfiction writing like ‘The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’, the seething document of Douglass’ life and struggles in a white-dominated America or ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and other memoirs by Maya Angelou, chronicling her own life’s journey. At the same time, I have been intrigued by the experimental narratives and the unmatched prowess of storytelling by modern essayists including Joe Ann Beard, Joan Didion, Anne Lamott, among others.
For quite some time, while being a graduate student engaged in reading and writing creative nonfiction, the thought of writing book reviews and conducting author interviews was pressing me. I was intrigued by the idea of unraveling some of the great, unknown moments of epiphany which transpired in the mind of an author while in the process of creating a particular nonfiction work. I did previously interview award-winning fiction writer Patricia McCormick about her two acclaimed novels, which were written as works of fiction, but were based out of some real-life experiences the writer was part of. While starting to talk to Nebraska-based award winning author and essayist Dr. Lisa Knopp, who also happens to be my thesis adviser, about her latest collection of personal essays, ‘What the River Carries: Encounters with Mississippi, Missouri and Platte’, I discovered that her spiritual journey with the book has been as much enriching, awe-inspiring and gratifying as that of a writer of fiction. What I was looking for while trying to understand her journey with the book was, how much did the subject matter of the three rivers appeal to her metaphorically, and how did her personal narrative and the greater truths of the Midwestern American landscape and its ecology fit into that metaphor.
While working with Dr. Knopp step-by-step into knowing the answers to these and much more, it was an enriching learning experience for me as a reader as I attempted to understand her own creative process, her unique, innovative way of exploring truths about her physical surroundings and how they merged with the truths of her own life.
You can read the full review of the book here:
Read on here to find out what Dr. Lisa Knopp herself has to say about my review in her website:
In near future, I wish to be part of more spiritual journeys of authors in the same way, while discussing their rich, multi-layered experiences that have been instrumental in shaping the books, being one with them in treasured moments in time.