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Just One Thing with John Carr Walker

It's double memoir month here at Split Lip, and we are so excited that John Carr Walker is one of our featured writers. If you haven't had a chance to read his beautiful memoir "Here & There" yet, we recommend putting it at the top of your to-be-read list! Here, John tells just one thing about the inspiration behind its form:

'My essay "Here & There" began as an imitation of Natalia Ginzburg's essay "He and I," which can be found in her collection Little Virtues and in Phillip Lopate's bible The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. For those not familiar with the Ginzburg essay, "He and I" is constructed entirely of observations about he, Ginzburg's husband, and I, Ginsburg herself. For example: "He always feels hot, I always feel cold" is the first sentence. I love how this back and forth creates not only drama, but extrapolates on that drama at the same time. I love the formality, both for its simplicity and for the essay's gentle yet absolute adherence to pattern. The first draft of my "Here & There," a long, meandering thing I competed longhand in a notebook, was without form or narrative impulse, so I started playing around with imposing Ginzburg's form on my story. "He" was my father, "I" was pre-teen me. Over several drafts, "he" became "here," and "I" became "there," as the drama of the essay became more obviously centered on weeding my family's vineyards. The shift away from Ginzburg's pattern toward my own was a gradual one, though I've always been keen to maintain the back and forth between here and there just as Ginzburg maintained her back and forth between he and I. My own work falls well short of Ginzburg's mastery--everyone should go read her; A Place to Live and Other Selected Essays, translated by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, offers a rich overview -- but I hope "Here & There" has its own charms.'


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