“The memoir of literary obsession”

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Over at New York, Sam Anderson has a review of Elizabeth Hawes’ Camus, a Romance in which he identifies the genre “memoir of literary obsession.”

I’d never thought of this as a genre, but it’s clearly an important one, most notably because all fans of reading at some point have to come to the crushing realization that their favorite authors are human. This is often very painful, and therefore interesting. 

“The great empire of Western thought,” Anderson says, “… had been founded not on metaphysics and griffins’ wings but on hairbrushes, socks, cutoff jean shorts, headbands, wastebaskets, and Daewoo sedans.”

Anderson continues, “I became fascinated by the gulf between literature’s abstract power and the trivia that always attends its creation. A great author’s toothbrush (or manuscript or cane or razor) is like a saint’s relic—a little rip in the space-text continuum, a wormhole through which the private abstract ecstasy of reading manages to stream in to the real world.”


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →