My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir
While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson and a woman named Annemarie--letters are that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings. Shapland recognizes herself in the letters' language--but does not see Carson as history has portrayed her.
And so, Shapland is compelled to undertake a recovery of the full narrative and language of Carson's life: She wades through the therapy transcripts; she stays at Carson's childhood home, where she lounges in her bathtub and eats delivery pizza; she relives Carson's days at her beloved Yaddo. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and Carson, she sees the way Carson's story has become a way to articulate something about herself. The results articulate something entirely new not only about this one remarkable, walleyed life, but about the way we tell queer love stories.
In genre-defying vignettes, Jenn Shapland interweaves her own story with Carson McCullers's to create a vital new portrait of one of America's most beloved writers, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.
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About the AuthorJenn Shapland's work won a 2017 Pushcart Prize and fellowships/residencies at Ucross, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Yaddo, the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, and Vermont Studio Center. Her essays have been published in Tin House, THE Magazine, Pastelegram, The Lifted Brow, Electric Literature, NANOfiction, and The Millions. She teaches in the Creative Writing department at the Institute of American Indian Arts and has a PhD in English from UT Austin. She designs and makes clothing for Agnes. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This book will change the way you think about the truth. ... Shapland possesses the perfect storm of talents to push McCullers's love life, and beautiful writing, into the light of this century during a moment when we need all the queer heroes we can get.--Kate Gorton
This is a gorgeous, brilliant book that is all but guaranteed to resonate with queer folks, word nerds, and readers everywhere.
Shapland interweaves candid self-questioning and revealing personal stories with a nuanced portrait of a writer who confessed her loves were 'untouchable' and her feelings 'inarticulable.' A sensitive chronicle of a biographer's search for truth.
A fine narrative of how the best writers express the deepest secrets of the heart.
In lucid, distilled, honest prose, Jenn Shapland teaches us about McCullers, the desire for recognition, loneliness, the complexities of queer history, the seductions and resistances of the archive, and, all throughout, love.--Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
A hard-won inquiry into how we seek out the truth of ourselves and others in ways that often, by necessity, aren't straightforward, that arrive in our lives in glimmering bits and shards. . . . Shapland's book is the kind of state-of-the-form reckoning that makes one wish there were more like it.--The New York Times Book Review
Following along with Shapland-as-detective is a delight, and the mystery she sets out to solve is one of those wicked unsolvables: how do we account for the apertures in language, history, and identity?