I Could Tell You Stories:
Sojourns in the Land of Memory

by Patricia Hampl

W.W. Norton & Co., 1999. ISBN 0393047385.
Reviewed by Leslea Smith
Posted on 05/24/2001

Memoir; Creative Life

Patricia Hampl could read the first chapter of I Could Tell You Stories at a Story Circle meeting and fit right in. She describes a bus ride through the middle of the country, and a farm woman who tells her "I could tell you stories." Contemplating that tantalizing remark and the beauty of the dawn, Hampl hears the injunction:


The book is a collection of essays, originally published in various journals and anthologies. The collection works well as a whole, tied together by the theme of the power of autobiographical writing. Hampl recounts her own stories as a way to explore the memoir genre: the connection between imagination and memory, what happens when our story takes us to dark places, and the conflict that arises when our stories reveal other people's secrets, for example. Mixed in with her own stories are powerful essays on the personal writing of a curious mix of authors: Edith Stein, Sylvia Plath, Augustine and Anne Frank. Each has lessons for the memoirist.

I read this book with my dictionary close at hand. Hampl is Regent's Professor at the University of Minnesota. Her writing is thick but worth the effort required to read it. Many of her dense, image-laden sentences sparkle. Her insights into personal writing ring true to me. For example, Hampl says "It still comes as a shock to realize that I don't write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know."

Welcome to Story Circle, Patricia.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.


Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.

Buy books online through amazon.com by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book