The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick

1st October, 2010 - Posted by Christine Perrin - No Comments

I’m rereading Vivan Gornick’s book “The Situation and the Story” for an honor’s thesis that I’m advising. Gornick does a great of job of articulating these two parts that present in every great work of literature. She defines each this way “the situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer: the insight, the wisdeom, the thing one has come to say.” While she is writing about personal narrative, these are useful categories even in poetry reading and writing. It is easy to get lost in either one and to forget the other. Some poets tend to focus on texture–syntax, tone, imagery, and some are more driven to the POINT, the argument, the insight, eureka. Both are essential to the achieved poem (and to life for that matter). Gornick does an inspiring job of tracing how this has worked in her own development as a writer and in the work of other writers she admires. About story, she describes the integral role of the narrator with the tale being told: “Its tone of voice, its angle of vision, the rhythm of its sentences, what it selects to obersve and what to ignore are chosen to serve the subject; yet at the same time the way the narrator–or persona–sees things is, to the largest degree, the thing being seen.” I recommend reading this book whether you’re a writer, reader, or teacher in any genre.

Posted on: October 1, 2010

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