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This is actually a good thing a lot of the time. Studies have shown that finding a positive meaning in negative events is linked to a more complex sense of self and greater life satisfaction. And even controlling for general optimism, McAdams and his colleagues found that having more redemption sequences in a life story was still associated with higher well-being. There are things that happen to people that cannot be redeemed. The end. In cases like this, for people who have gone through a lot of trauma, it might be better for them not to autobiographically reason about it at all.

But after other researchers replicated her findings, she got more confident that something was going on. In one study, McLean and her colleagues interviewed adolescents attending a high school for vulnerable students. One subject, Josie, the year-old daughter of a single mother, suffered from drug and alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder, rape, and a suicide attempt. She told the researchers that her self-defining memory was that her mother had promised not to have more children, and then broke that promise. Though sometimes autobiographical reasoning can lead to dark thoughts, other times it can help people find meaning.

And while you may be able to avoid reasoning about a certain event, it would be pretty hard to leave all the pages of a life story unwritten. But agency sure does. It makes sense, since feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are classic symptoms of depression, that feeling in control would be good for mental health.


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Adler did a longitudinal study of 47 adults undergoing therapy, having them write personal narratives and complete mental health assessments over the course of 12 therapy sessions. Agency, agency at all costs. If you have stage 4 cancer, agency may be good for you, but is it a rational choice? But I wondered: Though agency may be good for you, does seeing yourself as a strong protagonist come at a cost to the other characters in your story?

Are there implications for empathy if we see other people as bit players instead of protagonists in their own right? The question, perhaps, is how much people recognize that their agency is not absolute. According to one study, highly generative people—that is, people who are caring and committed to helping future generations— often tell stories about others who helped them in the past. The more the whole world is designed to work for you, the less you are aware that it is working for you. Even allowing for the fact that people are capable of complex Joyce-ian storytelling, biases, personality differences, or emotions can lead different people to see the same event differently.

A lot of false memory research has to do with eyewitness testimony , where it matters a whole lot whether a person is telling a story precisely as it happened. Any creation of a narrative is a bit of a lie. And some lies have enough truth. Which is interesting, because the storytelling device that seems most incompatible with the realities of actual life is foreshadowing. Metaphors, sure. As college literature class discussion sections taught me, you can see anything as a metaphor if you try hard enough.

Motifs, definitely. Forster once wrote. And it probably is easier to just drop those things as you pull patterns from the chaos, though it may take some readjusting. But Pasupathi rejects that. And so even with the dead ends and wrong turns, people can't stop themselves. She speculates that the reason there's foreshadowing in fiction in the first place is because of this human tendency.

The uncertainty of the future makes people uncomfortable , and stories are a way to deal with that. On the flip side, a patient with severe amnesia also had trouble imagining the future. Similarly, the way someone imagines his future seems to affect the way he sees his past, at the same time as his past informs what he expects for the future. You rewrite the history.

A life story is written in chalk, not ink, and it can be changed. The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives. In a country where the laws compel the use of cars, Americans are condemned to lose friends and relatives to traffic violence. My childhood neighbor was a varsity student-athlete, the president of the junior class, and the most popular girl in school.

One day in September , a car crash took her life. She had been driving home on the freeway when her car went across the median and collided with one going the opposite direction, killing both drivers. A third vehicle was said to have struck her car moments before, causing her to lose control. The police put out a call for information, apparently without success.

But at the time, it felt like a basically unavoidable tragedy. In our small city in Michigan—like almost everywhere in America—driving is the price of first-class citizenship. We never stopped to ask whether a different bargain was possible. Since her passing, approximately 1 million more Americans have been killed in car crashes. Great wealth insulates people from consequences, but not always, absolutely, or forever. Last Saturday, the billionaire and registered sex offender returned from a trip to Paris only to be arrested.

The life lessons learned are definitive and powerful. Many lessons are theater specific - for example, the required authority over actors, the syntax and semantics of playwriting, and the inner workings, logistics, and rituals of the theater. There are also subtle lessons to be learned from how Moss confronts his obstacles that can be universally applied.

Hart's devotion as he delved deeper into the world of theater only makes him work harder. He dreamed big, and wanted to soak himself into every crevice of the theater sponge. That immersion led him to where his talents were greatest. He abandoned acting in favor or playwriting and was able to surround himself with people who could help in achieving his goals. He extract lessons from all his experiences and relies upon lucky breaks.

So many times he is thrust into a foreign situation, but does whatever it takes, often faking it as he goes along. He learns to sometimes eschew general conventions and was also able to work with celebrated and great talents. While in the thick of it all, he is able to improvise and learn by comparison.

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During the rough times his is able to perfect the art of survival. In a moment of failure, he had some bleak realizations where his will to continue almost ceased to exist. At the same time a sense of irony rescued him bringing deeper realizations. He is able to develop expert insight into the theater and the psyche of the people in its sphere. All these lessons are things to be picked up and applied to anyone's life. When Hart calls his family to leave everything behind the day after his successful Broadway debut, you can't help but want to stand up in admiration and applause.

Hart writes, "I took one quick look around to keep the memory of that room forever verdant and then walked to each window and threw it wide open. The rain whipped in through the windows like a broadside of artillery fire. I watched a large puddle form on the floor and spread darkly over the carpet. The rain streamed across the top and down the legs of the dining room table and splashed over the sideboard and china closet. It soaked the armchair and cascaded down the sofa. It peppered the wallpaper with large wet blotches and the wind sent two lamps crashing to the floor.

I kicked them out of my way and walked over to the daybed, which was still dry, and pulled it out into the middle of the room, where a fresh onset of wind and rain immediately drenched it. I looked around me with satisfaction, feeling neither guilty or foolish. More reasonable gestures have seldom succeeded in giving me half the pleasure this meaningless one did.

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It was the hallmark, the final signature, of defiance and liberation. Short of arson, I could do no more. I slammed the door behind me without looking back. The social interactions and culture of s adult summer camps!

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The theatrical conference. The ritual of the rehearsal. It's probably like getting a letter instead of an email except better. Rating: 4. Recommended for all. Can be a slow read in a few spots, but the entirety is well worth it. Dec 30, Charlie Lovett rated it really liked it. I truly enjoyed this memoir of Moss Hart's early days in the theatre. I had seen the Great Performances broadcast of the Lincoln Center stage version, which I thought was extremely well done.

Hart writes beautifully, and it was a treat to have a look at the inner working of the theatre as it was in the s. A lot of the second half of the book is about the long road to Broadway of his first hit, Once in a Lifetime. I was in a production of that play in college, and I can still recall particula I truly enjoyed this memoir of Moss Hart's early days in the theatre. I was in a production of that play in college, and I can still recall particular line reads that Doug Vass as Laurence Vail a part originally played by George Kaufman, I discovered gave.

A great book for any old theatre bum like myself! View 1 comment.


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Act One is as physically alluring — oversized and the cover golden — as the drama it portrays. Sadly, there is no Act Three, Hart dying early at 57 from a heart attack. Poverty is the backdrop, overshadowing everything. Boredom is the keynote of poverty — of all its dignities, it is perhaps the hardest of all to live with — for where there is no money there is no change of any kind, not of scene or of routine. His attachment to his eccentric, theatre-loving Aunt Kate, who once lived with his family, another influence.

And then we root for his burning wish to get his foot in the door of Broadway, which he does. The prose draws us in, so we can picture ourselves seated beside him and his Aunt in the theatre nightly, his theatrical office job coming with the fantastic perk of free tickets. Of course, Hart also desperately needs money. Much of Act One is a story of mentors and collaborators, the most important being the legendary, Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, George S. Kaufman at one point did, leaving it to Hart to find their way back. Lorraine EnchantedProse.

Jun 20, Debra Pawlak rated it really liked it. Moss Hart is a Broadway legend. Act One is about his early years and how he made it to Broadway. There was nothing easy about it, but Hart tells his story with grace and humor. Reading about his contemporaries, like Sam Harris and George Kaufman, is like taking a peak at another era. Hart can be snarky and sarcastic, but he is always funny--never mean.

I know that he died about two years after this book was published It would have been nice to see him continue his story including his mar Moss Hart is a Broadway legend. It would have been nice to see him continue his story including his marriage to Kitty Carlisle and the many plays he worked on after his first big hit. One thing is for sure--Broadway would not be as bright without the talent of Moss Hart. Thankfully, he left behind the story of his struggles and assured us that nothing can deter real talent and drive.

Here's to you, Moss! Jan 26, Siobhan Burns rated it really liked it. A pure delight. Now I want to be a playwright when I grow up. May 21, DW rated it really liked it Shelves: good-to-know , biography. I definitely wouldn't have picked it up otherwise, because I'd never heard of the author, knew nothing about plays in the s and 30s, and I don't like the typeface I feel like I've struggled through some classics written in this typeface, so I associate it with "boring".

Anyway, just as you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, neither should you judge it by its typeface. This story grabbed me from page one. I don't think I particularly like the author as a person, but the book is well written and the story is fascinating. If anything the book is too perfect - did he really quit his job on a whim, then go to visit his friend who had also quit that day and get hired on the spot? Did he really get fired and bump into another friend in the elevator leaving the building and get offered another position? Did the show really go from nothing to raining money in one night?

Or was that artistic license? Thoughts: he was way too lenient on his grandfather and aunt, who both seemed to be selfish and cruel but they doted on him. He also came off as offensively arrogant in spots, for instance when he was flat broke and had to borrow money from an acquaintance, he framed it aggressively as a business proposition instead of as he had been cheated out of his wages and was about to be homeless.

And the person he'd never met to whom he said "You'll like that book" was perfectly right to say "How do you know? Not to mention him vandalizing places he was leaving, just out of spite. Also, he disdains people who fawn over celebrity and then a few pages later describes poring over the "famous initials and names" on the editorial page in the New York World. I was also surprised that even though the time period of the book includes World War I and the Great Depression, he mentions neither his father lost his cigar-making job, but I think that was in the s. But still, it was a fascinating story and interesting to compare to today.

He had to leave school after eighth grade to work. He lived with his parents and younger brother through the whole book, even when he was well into his 20s, and it was accepted as perfectly normal and natural. He was hired for several jobs on the spot, without no training expected or required or perhaps that still happens in some industries? But I don't think office boys exist anymore. The story of his second summer as a camp entertainment director, when all the staff was cheated out of most of the summer's pay and having to hitch-hike back to New York because they had no money at all , was jaw-dropping.

I hope stuff like that doesn't happen now. Also, him mingling with the crowd at intermission and seeing the second half of shows for free - I guess I don't know if that's possible now. I never thought to try it. But then the idea of him and his friend working all night to write down the acts from memory afterwards or later having a paid stenographer sit next to him - now every audience member has a cellphone that could record video and audio of whole show.

The story of his collaboration was instructive. For one thing, it's easy to watch a movie or play or a piece of music, and think that it was inevitable. So the fact that he got the first act right, but then had to rewrite the second and third acts over and over and over again was a good reminder that even though good art looks effortless, it actually requires a great deal of work and time and effort.

What did puzzle me was that it seemed that he simply wrote plays out in sequence, from Act One to Act Three. Didn't he make a beat sheet or at least an outline, to know where the play was going? Also, the final insight, that "Once in a Lifetime" was too "noisy" a play because the audience never had a chance to rest, is an observation that I read in a book about screenwriting. The screenwriting book criticized "Bringing Up Baby" for being unrelentingly high-energy, even though "Bringing Up Baby" was a hit. Anyway, I guess the point was that Moss Hart learned it without formally studying playwriting.

I thought it a bit odd that he went from dirt-poor through most of the book to fabulously wealthy in the last chapter, and then the book stops abruptly. This is where it seems like he stuck to the simple story arc for the sake of telling a good story. I guess that's why the book is called Act One The kind you would think was too fake if someone had tried to make it up. Inspired by his Aunt at an early age to love the theatre, Moss first works as a helper for a play producer, then writes a play overnight, gets it produced, has it flop, works as a social director, then again as a social director this time for an evil man and a horrid camp, then we fast forward five years and Moss is THE BEST social director for summer camps, and finally we focus on him writing Once in a Lifetime.

All of it expertly told by a master storyteller. At pages there are points in the book where I did get a little bored and wished it would speed up a bit. I also kind of wished to know HOW he became the most sought after Social director after his summer of hell. I think it would be like a course in playwriting. Having said that there were so many gems that make this book a classic. The insightful writing of Moss that lets us know his life warts and all.

And of course, the fairy tale ending. Just a wonderful autobiography.

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We see this in published motherhood memoirs. Particularly, the reality of single parenting, same-sex parenting, and urban parenting is largely unaccounted for in popular media, and mothers in these circumstances find themselves without much in the way of prior scripts. The social exigence of personal mommy blogging serves to mitigate these dissatisfactions and resolve these contradictions by fostering fora for adult self-expression, for the articulation of a more nuanced and rich script of mothering, and for the creation of a supportive community of peers with whom to share the full experience of parenthood.

Karin A. The blog medium and the writing practices developing within it are well-suited to these exigencies. Laura J. Gurak and Smiljana Antonijevic similarly propose that blogging promotes both the development of individual voice, and of community. Commenters, that is, make their own status as mommy bloggers explicit, and see the negative press account and reader comments on Her Bad Mother and Don Mills Diva as directed at all of them. Reading a book, even if you identify with it, is not the same as writing one, while in the community of writers responding to this article, the distinction between who is a writer, and who a reader, is a false one.

Most personal mommy blog authors acknowledge the importance not simply of writing in their blogs, but of receiving feedback from readers, and participating in what they describe as a community.

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Implicated in the writings of others as much as they depend on being read in turn, mommy bloggers come to understand their own blogs to form part of a larger whole, even if their motivations for beginning the blog was more simply to write. The Globe article interrogates not just the particular writers it profiles but also the entire practice of mommy blogging.

What kind of person reads it? Those commentators refer to ALL of us as pimps and zombies that are taking advantage of our children. They resent the obvious ignorance of the early commenters on the Globe website. These modes of co-production are common across the personal blogosphere, as Serfaty suggests, but they play a special role in personal mommy blogging.

Motherhood, many bloggers find, is a fraught and contested identity category, in which they feel cowed by cultural pressures. Stay a home, work outside, write about the kids How much nicer would the task of motherhood be if we could do that in real life? Doubled self-reflexivity Mommy bloggers are highly self-conscious and self-reflexive about their practices. Indeed, mommy blogging can seem very often to be about the act of mommy-blogging.

I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a writer. I love life.

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I know! I'm a delicate, unique snowflake! In the post itself, however, she explains herself passionately and eloquently:. I choose not to be silent. I choose to tell my stories, tell—while she is young—her stories, tell the stories of she and I and our family and our place in this world and to pull meaning from those stories and to speculate on those meanings and to reflect, out loud, on what it means to be a mom in this day and age and other days and ages and all the days and ages to come. I choose to use my voice, my fingers, my keyboard to make myself heard.

I choose to write. The post quickly garnered over comments, and the archived version of the post now lists 21 separate blog post responses appearing within the week. One of the commenters, inaugurating a thread that spun out to many other comments and posts, wondered exasperatedly whether anyone had ever accused Erma Bombeck of exploiting her children for commercial gain.

Many, many, many famous female writers have supported themselves in part by writing personal anecdotes about their lives that include their children. Yes, she decides. Her post also addresses the money question:. Gaughran-Perez, Other bloggers compare mommy-blogging to the example of preachers incorporating stories about their own families into sermons, to the current bumper crop of blog-to-print parenting memoirs, by Neal Pollack, Rebecca Eckler, Catherine Sanderson, and Rebecca Woolf, and to oldies-but-goodies comic writing by Bill Cosby, Erma Bombeck, and even Paul Reiser.


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Mommy bloggers themselves, as these quotations suggest, offer some of the most compelling examinations of what it means to write publicly, and on the Internet, about childhood and parenthood. As Serfaty noticed, diary-style bloggers appear more likely than other life-writers to reflect in writing on the opportunities and constraints of the Internet as a publication medium, and on the interaction of their online selves and their offline ones, their experiencing selves and their writing ones.

Some of this doubled self-reflexivity can be attributed to the affordances of the blog medium: publishing and being commented on nearly daily, mommy bloggers are able more quickly to respond to—to comment on, link to, and post about—popular media representation of their practices. It feels good to be writing this. The baby is sleeping […. The main question about writing raised in Operating Instructions is whether Lamott will be able to cobble together enough book and food review assignments to support her family. We have a different set of cultural expectations about motherhood.

Mothers are not supposed to consider their own needs. A mother writing online because she needs the creative outlet, or longs to maintain contact with a community, or even gasp! Toddled Dredge. For Jackson, the balm for the corporeal, psychological, and intellectual shock of motherhood is to be found in writing and reading individual stories of mothering. This is the work undertaken by mommy bloggers, on a much broader scale and to much more immediate effect than published memoirists or private diarists.

In passionate defenses based on personal values, in sober accounts drawn from hard-won positive and negative experiences, in thoughtful and abstract even academic statements of practice drawing on other fields of practice, and sometimes in annoyed rants aimed at clueless outsiders, mommy bloggers support each other in the project of mapping the terrain of motherhood.

Some of this amnesia manifests itself in the terms of the denigration of personal mommy blogging articulated by Globe and Mail comment writers. Like so many female life-writers before them, mommy bloggers continue to contest the enforced boundaries between private lives and public writing, forging communities of practice and support at the same time as they develop their voices as writers and as women who are integrating motherhood into their self-image. This calling into question should, I feel, make the online diary more central rather than less to the work of autobiography and media scholars.

It performs essential work for its authors and meets a real need among its readers. For most women, blogging has many advantages over either the personal diary or the print memoir. That is, as a publishing medium, blogging offers affordances that further their communicative aims, and social exigences. Obviously, there is the question of access: personal diaries can be written by anyone, but are very rarely read except by their own authors; print memoirs, meanwhile must clear the various gates of editorial and publisher oversight, and many more authors pen such texts than ever manage to see them published.

Also, the time between writing and publication is much reduced in blogging, and inclusion of photos, videos, and other media is simple and of no greater cost than text; feedback can be nearly immediate. As the writers themselves express it above, one of the main attractions of blogging is in its social aspect, its friendship- and community-building facility resulting from the speed, reach, and richness of Internet composition, publishing, and searching. The blog medium, also, facilitates the ability of writers to shift registers, radically and regularly.

The Mother Zone is a sustained work of memoir running over pages and its tone of passionate ambivalence and the search for balance extends throughout its full length. Anthologies like Between Interruptions and Breeder, featuring and promoting the diversity of writings contained therein, nevertheless hew to a volume-spanning narrative arc, with entries divided into thematic sections, for example. Similarly, the blog format allows for the posting of a silly photo, a political rant, a meme questionnaire, and a midnight cry for sleep advice as the need arises and circumstances permit, day to day, in a manner that arguably better reflects the emotional cadence of early motherhood than literary print models of memoir or autobiography.

Genre is a process: more than the sum of texts that fall under its reach, genre is enacted in the contested relation between texts and communicants, a negotiation that defines, enforces, or rewrites the rules of engagement that constrain and enable syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic relations that structure texts and interactions. In the face of all this plurality, a boon in many respects, and permitting a much broader variety of subject positions, practices, and ideologies within the realm of the normal, many women felt lost.

Comments and responses, both on the Globe and Mail website and off, are attuned to the questions that animate rhetorical genre study: who speaks to whom, and under what circumstances? What social exigence is this communication situation meant to address? What are the formal linguistic tropes of this communication? Finally, newspaper readers commenting on the article, and bloggers responding both to the article and to those who commented on it, both grapple with the central question of why: Why write about your children and your lives in this way?

If not frightened by these dangers, many commenters are bored or put off by the whole enterprise. They see inanity and stories about infant excretion polluting the promise of the information superhighway idealized as a space of perfect knowledge and commerce. Writers and mothers engaged in the social and creative practice of mommy blogging, though, see a need for self-expression and community development met. The fact of the controversy speaks to the contested nature of mommy blogging—its boundaries, that is, are not fully established, its practices not universally accepted, its texts not acknowledged as part of a legitimate parenting or writing discourse.

The specifics of the resulting discussion show that this confusion is asymmetrically distributed: most mommy bloggers have attained clear consensus on the boundaries of the genre; newspaper readers have not. References Arendell, T. Conceiving and investigating motherhood: The decade's scholarship. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62 4 ,