“Every work of literature has both a situation and a story.”

The situation, Vivian Gornick explains in this book about the art of personal narrative, is the context or circumstances, while the story is “the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say” (13). Gornick argues that the most difficult and important work of memoirists is to understand why they are telling their story. The writer of memoir should undergo “an apprenticeship as soul-searching as any undergone by novelist or poet.” If they don’t, Gornick warns, they can fall into “the pit of confessionalism or therapy on the page or naked self-absorption.”  For the story to succced, the purpose must be clear.

Gornick, Vivian. The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001,

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