USC event: Tuesday, November 22 at 7:00pm

USC College of Letters & Sciences, the USC Master of Professional Writing Program and PEN USA proudly present

LA Times book critic DAVID L. ULIN
in conversation with Mona Simpson

THE LOST ART OF READING: Why Books Matter In A Distracted Time

Please join us for an evening of thought-provoking discussion

University of Southern California
Doheny Memorial Library Lecture Hall
Room 240
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, California 90089

Free & Open to the Public.
Book Signing & Reception will follow the main event

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Powell’s: one week, 5 posts

November 8: Shaping the truth

November 9: Escape and immersion

November 10: Belonging to all of us

November 11: The blurry line

November 12: Why do we read?

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Blogging at Powell’s

This week, David L. Ulin is blogging at Powell’s about The Lost Art of Reading:

Here’s a question I think about a lot: What are our expectations of nonfiction? I’m not referring to the morass stirred up by the term “creative nonfiction” because it goes without saying that all nonfiction is creative, as is all writing, all attempts to frame the chaos of existence and give it a shape. But more directly, do we come to nonfiction looking for a narrative, and if so what does that mean? I’ve spent much of yesterday talking (or virtually talking) to students about these issues, about the need for writers to shape material, even (or especially) if that material is true.

This was one of the challenges I faced in The Lost Art of Reading, how to give an idea that was, in essence, abstract (why is reading important? what does it offer us?) a concrete form. For me, the solution was to frame it with a story, the story of my attempt to read The Great Gatsby with my teenage son Noah, a story that, for me anyway, catalyzed the larger issues I wanted to address. It made sense because one of the fundamental arguments in the book is that we need story, that we are hard-wired for it as a species, that, as Joan Didion wrote more than 30 years ago, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Yet Didion, it must be said, also recognized the limitations of that argument, the way the same stories that shore us up us also let us down. She follows her famous line with one far less remembered: “Or at least we do for a while.”

Read the rest at Powell’s book blog.

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