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The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961-1963

by Gail Godwin

PUBLISHED: 30th January 2007
ISBN: 9780812974690
ANNOTATION:
Gail Godwin was twenty-four years old when she wrote: "I want to be everybody who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created." It is a declaration that only a wildly ambitious young writer would make in the privacy of her journal. Now, in "The Making of a Writer," Godwin has distilled her early journals, which run from 1961 to 1963, to their brilliant and charming essence. She conveys the feverish period following the breakup of her first marriage; the fateful decision to move to Europe and the shock of her first encounters with Danish customs (and Danish men); the pleasures of soaking in the human drama on long rambles through the London streets and the torment of lonely Sundays spent wrestling these impressions into prose; and the determination to create despite rejection and a growing stack of debts. "I do not feel like a failure," Godwin insists. "I will keep writing, harder than ever." Brimming with urgency and wit, Godwin's inspiring tome opens a shining window into the life and craft of a great writer just coming into her own. "A generous gift from a much-loved author to her readers." -"Chicago Sun-Times" "Full of lively, entertaining observations on the literary life . . . [captures] the spirit of a young writer's adventure into foreign lands and foreign realms of thought and creative endeavor." -"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" "As cities and continents and men change, the entries are borne along by . . . the young Godwin's fierce conviction that she is meant to write fiction and her desire to distract herself from this mission with any man who catches her eye." -"The New York Times Book Review" "[Godwin] describes ahigh-wire act of love and work. . . . She espouses fierce, uncompromising ideas about fiction." -"Los Angeles Times" "[Gail Godwin's journals] are a gold mine." -"The Boston Globe"
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PUBLISHED: 30th January 2007
ISBN: 9780812974690
ANNOTATION:
Gail Godwin was twenty-four years old when she wrote: "I want to be everybody who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created." It is a declaration that only a wildly ambitious young writer would make in the privacy of her journal. Now, in "The Making of a Writer," Godwin has distilled her early journals, which run from 1961 to 1963, to their brilliant and charming essence. She conveys the feverish period following the breakup of her first marriage; the fateful decision to move to Europe and the shock of her first encounters with Danish customs (and Danish men); the pleasures of soaking in the human drama on long rambles through the London streets and the torment of lonely Sundays spent wrestling these impressions into prose; and the determination to create despite rejection and a growing stack of debts. "I do not feel like a failure," Godwin insists. "I will keep writing, harder than ever." Brimming with urgency and wit, Godwin's inspiring tome opens a shining window into the life and craft of a great writer just coming into her own. "A generous gift from a much-loved author to her readers." -"Chicago Sun-Times" "Full of lively, entertaining observations on the literary life . . . [captures] the spirit of a young writer's adventure into foreign lands and foreign realms of thought and creative endeavor." -"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" "As cities and continents and men change, the entries are borne along by . . . the young Godwin's fierce conviction that she is meant to write fiction and her desire to distract herself from this mission with any man who catches her eye." -"The New York Times Book Review" "[Godwin] describes ahigh-wire act of love and work. . . . She espouses fierce, uncompromising ideas about fiction." -"Los Angeles Times" "[Gail Godwin's journals] are a gold mine." -"The Boston Globe"

Annotation

Gail Godwin was twenty-four years old when she wrote: "I want to be everybody who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created." It is a declaration that only a wildly ambitious young writer would make in the privacy of her journal. Now, in "The Making of a Writer," Godwin has distilled her early journals, which run from 1961 to 1963, to their brilliant and charming essence. She conveys the feverish period following the breakup of her first marriage; the fateful decision to move to Europe and the shock of her first encounters with Danish customs (and Danish men); the pleasures of soaking in the human drama on long rambles through the London streets and the torment of lonely Sundays spent wrestling these impressions into prose; and the determination to create despite rejection and a growing stack of debts. "I do not feel like a failure," Godwin insists. "I will keep writing, harder than ever." Brimming with urgency and wit, Godwin's inspiring tome opens a shining window into the life and craft of a great writer just coming into her own. "A generous gift from a much-loved author to her readers." -"Chicago Sun-Times" "Full of lively, entertaining observations on the literary life . . . [captures] the spirit of a young writer's adventure into foreign lands and foreign realms of thought and creative endeavor." -"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" "As cities and continents and men change, the entries are borne along by . . . the young Godwin's fierce conviction that she is meant to write fiction and her desire to distract herself from this mission with any man who catches her eye." -"The New York Times Book Review" "[Godwin] describes ahigh-wire act of love and work. . . . She espouses fierce, uncompromising ideas about fiction." -"Los Angeles Times" "[Gail Godwin's journals] are a gold mine." -"The Boston Globe"

Publisher Description

Gail Godwin was twenty-four years old when she wrote: "I want to be everybody who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created." It is a declaration that only a wildly ambitious young writer would make in the privacy of her journal. Now, in "The Making of a Writer," Godwin has distilled her early journals, which run from 1961 to 1963, to their brilliant and charming essence. She conveys the feverish period following the breakup of her first marriage; the fateful decision to move to Europe and the shock of her first encounters with Danish customs (and Danish men); the pleasures of soaking in the human drama on long rambles through the London streets and the torment of lonely Sundays spent wrestling these impressions into prose; and the determination to create despite rejection and a growing stack of debts. "I do not feel like a failure," Godwin insists. "I will keep writing, harder than ever." Brimming with urgency and wit, Godwin's inspiring tome opens a shining window into the life and craft of a great writer just coming into her own. "A generous gift from a much-loved author to her readers." -"Chicago Sun-Times" "Full of lively, entertaining observations on the literary life . . . captures] the spirit of a young writer's adventure into foreign lands and foreign realms of thought and creative endeavor." -"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" "As cities and continents and men change, the entries are borne along by . . . the young Godwin's fierce conviction that she is meant to write fiction and her desire to distract herself from this mission with any man who catches her eye." -"The New York Times Book Review" " Godwin] describes a high-wire act of love and work. . . . She espouses fierce, uncompromising ideas about fiction." -"Los Angeles Times" " Gail Godwin's journals] are a gold mine." -"The Boston Globe"

Author Biography

Gail Godwin is the author of ten novels, three of which were nominated for National Book Awards. "A Southern Family" and "Father Melancholy's Daughter" were both NYT bestsellers and Main Selections of the Book of the Month Club. She has been translated into 12 languages. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and letters. She holds a doctorate in Modern Letters from the University of Iowa and has taught in the Iowa writers Workshop, Vassar and Columbia. A native of Asheville, N.C., she now lives in Woodstock, N.Y.

Review

"As a diarist myself I read Gail Godwin's diary with complicity, pleasure, suspense, annoyance, competitiveness, astonishment and, yes, a touch of jealousy. She holds her own gorgeously. It's writing about writing, from the inside out: what it means-and takes-to be a writer." -Ned Rorem "[Godwin shows] the ways in which a writer's imagination began to shape the material of her life into what later became notable stories and novels; it's remarkable, in fact, that someone who at twenty-four could write with such wit, perception and rueful self-knowledge would have to wait another half-dozen years before receiving any recognition for her gifts. In one despairing moment, Godwin writes, 'This journal has no earthly use or interest to anyone but Number One.' Profoundly untrue." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Apart from Bellow, I can think of only four American novelists-Michael Chabon, Gail Godwin, Craig Nova, and Anne Tyler-whose work could be submitted to an international competition with any confidence." -Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

"Gail Godwin is one of the best writers we have today." -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"She is America's best living novelist." -San Jose Mercury News

"One of the most intelligent and appealing of contemporary fiction writers." -Chicago Sun-Times

Long Description

Gail Godwin was twenty-four years old when she wrote: " I want to be everybody who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created." It is a declaration that only a wildly ambitious young writer would make in the privacy of her journal. Now, in "The Making of a Writer," Godwin has distilled her early journals, which run from 1961 to 1963, to their brilliant and charming essence. She conveys the feverish period following the breakup of her first marriage; the fateful decision to move to Europe and the shock of her first encounters with Danish customs (and Danish men); the pleasures of soaking in the human drama on long rambles through the London streets and the torment of lonely Sundays spent wrestling these impressions into prose; and the determination to create despite rejection and a growing stack of debts. " I do not feel like a failure, " Godwin insists. " I will keep writing, harder than ever." Brimming with urgency and wit, Godwin's inspiring tome opens a shining window into the life and craft of a great writer just coming into her own. " A generous gift from a much-loved author to her readers." - "Chicago Sun-Times" " Full of lively, entertaining observations on the literary life . . . [captures] the spirit of a young writer's adventure into foreign lands and foreign realms of thought and creative endeavor." - "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" " As cities and continents and men change, the entries are borne along by . . . the young Godwin's fierce conviction that she is meant to write fiction and her desire to distract herself from thismission with any man who catches her eye." - "The New York Times Book Review" " [Godwin] describes a high-wire act of love and work. . . . She espouses fierce, uncompromising ideas about fiction." - "Los Angeles Times" " [Gail Godwin's journals] are a gold mine." - "The Boston Globe"

Review Quote

"As a diarist myself I read Gail Godwin's diary with complicity, pleasure, suspense, annoyance, competitiveness, astonishment and, yes, a touch of jealousy. She holds her own gorgeously. It's writing about writing, from the inside out: what it means-and takes-to be a writer." -Ned Rorem "YGodwin shows? the ways in which a writer's imagination began to shape the material of her life into what later became notable stories and novels; it's remarkable, in fact, that someone who at twenty-four could write with such wit, perception and rueful self-knowledge would have to wait another half-dozen years before receiving any recognition for her gifts. In one despairing moment, Godwin writes, 'This journal has no earthly use or interest to anyone but Number One.' Profoundly untrue." -Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Apart from Bellow, I can think of only four American novelists-Michael Chabon, Gail Godwin, Craig Nova, and Anne Tyler-whose work could be submitted to an international competition with any confidence." -Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World "Gail Godwin is one of the best writers we have today." -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "She is America's best living novelist." -San Jose Mercury News "One of the most intelligent and appealing of contemporary fiction writers." -Chicago Sun-Times "From the Hardcover edition."

Excerpt from Book

Part on e THE PREPARATION Blowing Rock and Asheville, North Carolina ; Washington, D.C.; and New Yor k AUGUST 12--OCTOBER 4, 1961 On August 8, 1961, with a Firm plan very much in mind, a restless twenty-four-year-old Gail Godwin had settled in her dormitory at Mayview Manor, a once-elegant resort in the mountains of western North Carolina. She had taken a job as a waitress at the resort to earn money for the European trip that would inaugurate her creative writing career. "My room was on the top oor," Gail now recalls, "and my bed looked out into the trees. The night was clear and spicy with wood smells. It was after the dinner shift and I had bathed and was drinking Hennessey eight-year-old cognac." She took out her eight-by-Five-inch "Record Book"-which she has said was her "savings account and safety deposit box"-and wrote in a heartfelt way about her father getting drunk in his little brick house and falling asleep on the sofa. Mose W. Godwin was divorced from Gail''s mother, Kathleen, and Gail had spent some time nourishing his sense of hope as he supported her in her First year of college. The memory would eventually Find its best expression in Gail''s story "Old Lovegood Girls." 1 Presently, she penned herself some literary encouragement: "Stand by me oh noble holy inspiration. Let . . . me . . . do . . . it." Gail knew she was standing at one of the great turning points in her life. Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had left her hungry for knowledge and opportunity, and the loss of her job as a reporter at the Miami Herald had added both fear and fuel to her resolve. During this period, she had also been married to Herald photographer Douglas Kennedy and divorced Five months later, and she was conscious that she hadn''t published anything except for a story in a Chapel Hill literary magazine and her newspaper stories. The surest proof of her calling to a writer''s life was this persistent sentiment, expressed on August 20: "I want to be everyone who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created." 2 1. Reprinted in the 2004 Reader''s Circle edition of Evenings at Five. She wished, in addition to encompassing the world, to be one of its masterful explainers. This is the First revelation encountered in her journals: the extent of her aspirations. It characterizes everything she creates. In this light, her books are revealed as attempts to explore, through dialogue and drama, territory both uncharted and vital. Success in such a journey involves negotiating doubts and embracing risks. The Gail Godwin encountered in 196 1 is both urgently conFident and relatively inexperienced. She has begun to survey her universe and to accumulate and organize her impressions. Reading is a key experience in this process, for by knowing what she likes and studying what impresses her, she is able to get a picture of what she, in her unique way, wants to fulFill. We join Gail as she is about to embark upon a remarkable journey. 2. Godwin shared this Faustian urge with Thomas Wolfe, with whom she also shared a hometown-Asheville, North Carolina. In an introduction she wrote in 1990 for a Book-of-the-Month Club reissue of Wolfe''s You Can''t Go Home Again, Godwin described her enchantment with his writing and her desire "to capture the whole history of the human heart," as Wolfe had phrased it. It is also worth noting that when Godwin''s mother, Kathleen, had worked as a reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times during World War II, she had been dispatched to the dead novelist''s home "whenever Mrs. Wolfe called up the paper to announce, ''I have just remembered something else about Tom'' " (quoted from "Becoming a Writer," in The Writer on Her Work, volume 1 [W. W. Norton, 1980], a collection of essays edited by Janet Sternburg). August 12, 1961 Mayview Manor3 Tonight I think I worked physically harder than ever before in my life. Letter from steamship company. Will I really make it to Europe? God, I am going to have trouble sleeping tonight. I will be setting tables all night long. When I left the dining room--limp as a reed, physically exhausted to the point of sheer exhilaration--as soon as the wind cooled my sweat and I had heard a few notes of music from the dance band playing upstairs, I felt free and whole again, completely at ease with myself and confident that I could make it down the hill and just about anywhere else I want to go. August 14 Write Glamour magazine. Retype "Lazarus"4 and "I Always Will."5 Be independent, do your job, be involved in your duty. Rewrote eleven pages of "Lazarus," existed through two meals, and swam across the pool four times. I have saved $200. I have made about $400. Should be able to get another $200 before September 10 IF I REALLY WORK. August 15 The bovines will attend Montaldo''s annual fashion show and the models will priss and primp--including [the owner''s] niece with the kinky 3. Mayview Manor, a 138-room hotel built of native chestnut wood and fieldstone, made Blowing Rock, North Carolina, a mecca for the rich when it was established in 1921. The hotel was closed in 1966 and demolished in 1978. 4. "The Raising of Lazarus," an unpublished story, imagines a turning point in the life of a playboy. Godwin had begun it in 1959. Although it moves overdescriptively toward a safe ending, it exhibits a number of outstanding features, including the detailed imagining of another person''s intimate life and the integral inclusion of music in a character''s mood and routine. Godwin has appropriated one aspect of Lazarus''s story--his management of a Miami hotel--for her new novel, Queen of the Underworld. 5. "I Always Will," an early story, no longer survives as a manuscript. hair and the giggle. I will be clad in dirty pink uniform, running my tail off to get the pretty ladies fed their cold fruit plates in the hot, hot sun. The ice will melt in the tea. Marva will do something asinine. My legs will twitch and my makeup will disintegrate. Little L. the chipmunk6 will grin out of the window and slouch against the door watching the fashion show, chompingly confident of his right to be there. Mail "Lazarus" and "I Always Will" to Littauer''s.7 No matter how much you don''t feel like it. August 20 "Lazarus" could be an epic. I think I shall send it first to Esquire. Why not? I have a disease. I am trying to think of a word to describe it. It is that I want to be everybody who is great; I want to create everything that has ever been created. I want to own everything that everybody owns. In short, I have a desire for universal acquisition. Just looking at an issue of Esquire arouses a hundred different hungers. I want to have written all the good stories, said all the clever things. I want to buy all the clothes, try all the gourmet suggestions, and travel to all the countries. As the summer season at Mayview Manor comes to a noisy close, Gail''s journal dwells on the contrast between the ideal world of her imagination and the real world of resort society. Gail needed to be in both places--the ideal and the practical--but the call of the former was more seductive. The quality that bridges the two realms is refinement. Refinement relates to how one engages with society. In this regard, Gail absorbs the advice of B., her friend and serious beau, about reticence and inner strength. Refinement also bears bitingly upon the affectations 6. L. was the young assistant manager at Mayview Manor. 7. Kenneth Littauer, a New York literary agent, in response to a query from Godwin, had said he''d look at her work. Godwin had turned to him after having sent another agent, Lurton Blassingame, a novel that she had adapted from one of her mother''s works--only to discover that Blassingame had previously represented the original manuscript for her mother. As it turned out, Godwin never sent Littauer anything. and habits of the upper class, to which Gail, as a kind of Cinderella, has to cater at Mayview Manor. In her life, Gail experienced being part of many classes. Her search for refinement sometimes leaves both the barbarians and the bourgeoisie behind. The last aspect of refinement has to do with art and, namely, Gail''s writing. Magically, writing takes the other two types of refinement in hand. In society, Gail was training herself to observe, describe, and ultimately care for anyone and everyone. Gail had to avoid falling into the observer''s trap--dispassion and, in extreme cases, vampirism ("draining" people of their secrets).8 A writer must find a way to take notes on his or her experiences while remaining a vital participant. August 26 The girls are dropping out one by one . . . Seven left . . . We started with thirty-five. As soon as they clear out, their faces and voices fade from my memory as quickly as the little light which dwindles into nothing after you turn the TV off. B. & I had a talk on reticence. I love the way he talks in outline. He doesn''t ramble and he doesn''t forget what he was saying. "Each year I learn to say less and less." I came back to the room and scrubbed myself clean of all those people. It is good to be exposed to troglodytes and their truisms and their bad manners. It makes one aware of the many layer

Product Details

Author
Gail Godwin
Short Title
MAKING OF A WRITER
Pages
333
Publisher
Random House Trade
Language
English
ISBN-10
0812974697
ISBN-13
9780812974690
Media
Book
Format
Paperback
Year
2007
Publication Date
2007-01-31
Residence
Woodstock, NY, US
Country of Publication
United States
Subtitle
Journals, 1961-1963
Edited by
Neufeld, Rob
Audience
General/Trade
Series
Making of a Writer
Series Number
1