Wednesday, 7:30 pm EDT September 9, 2020
The Wanting Was a Wilderness by Alden Jones is a surprisingly moving, intertextual blend of criticism and personal memoir that highlights the importance of contemporary literary analysis.
In her “bibliomemoir”, Jones takes an academic lens to Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling hit Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Trail. How did the story of a young woman’s long walk in the woods resonate with millions of people? What can other memoirists learn from the stylistic and structural elements in Wild? As she dug into the material, Jones’s own life turned upside down and she found herself writing her own wilderness story alongside her analysis of Strayed’s.
Cheryl Strayed and Alden Jones will discuss the art of memoir writing and why reading about the lives of others can bring our own personal struggles into focus.
Alden Jones was born in New York, raised in New Jersey, and educated at Brown University, New York University, and the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her critical memoir, The Wanting Was a Wilderness, is forthcoming in August 2020. Her first book, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia, was named a Top Ten Travel Book by Publishers Weekly and the Huffington Post, won the Independent Publishers Book Award in Travel Essays and was longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award. Her story collection, Unaccompanied Minors, won the New American Fiction Prize, the Lascaux Book Prize, and an Independent Publisher Book Award in Short Fiction, and was a finalist for the Edmund White Award in Debut Fiction and a Lambda Literary Award.
Alden’s essays and stories have appeared in New York magazine, the Cut, Psychology Today, Agni, the Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Post Road, and the Iowa Review, and anthologized in the Best American Travel Writing. She is the cofounder, with Tim Weed, of the Cuba Writers Program, bringing writers to Cuba for an 8-day program every spring. She teaches creative writing and cultural studies at Emerson College in Boston and is a core faculty member of the Newport MFA program at Salve Regina University.
Photo courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz.
The Wanting Was a Wilderness: Cheryl Strayed's Wild and the Art of Memoir
By Alden Jones
Published by Fiction Advocate
How did Cheryl Strayed turn a solo hike into an inspirational memoir, beloved by millions? Memoirist and professor Alden Jones sets out to explore why. But when a sudden personal crisis occurs while she is writing, Jones realizes she must confront some difficult truths, both in her life and on the page. The Wanting Was a Wilderness is a profoundly original work that blends criticism, craft analysis, and a memoir of Jones’s own time in the wilderness. The result is a celebration of Wild and a map of our long path to self-discovery.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed
Published by Vintage Books
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her..
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