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November 11, 2005, 8:00 PM

Memory, Invention and the Writer's Search For Immortality: Three Writers Consider the Creative Process

Participants: Patricia Hampl, Anne Golomb Hoffman (moderator), Arthur Phillips, Matthew von Unwerth

"We only store in memory images of value," says poet and essayist Patricia Hampl. "Over time, the value (the feeling) and the stored memory (the image) may become estranged. Memoir seeks a permanent home for feeling and image, a habitation where they can live together. The myth about the memoirist is that the writing of the story is a matter of transcription. But how reliable is memory really? The honest memoirist must eventually admit that invention plays a part in his or her search for truth."

In this evening's discussion, Arthur Phillips (author of Prague and The Egyptologist) and Matthew von Unwerth (author of Freud's Requiem) join memoirist and MacArthur Grant recipient Hampl to meditate upon the twin wellsprings of creativity: memory and imagination. What is the relationship between recollection and (re)creation in memory? What drives us to preserve the past, and what to distort it? What do the alternate worlds of fiction share with the allegedly faithful portraits of the past conjured up in memoir, biography, essay? And what do the enriched artifacts of the writer, whatever form they take, share with and add to the universal, ubiquitous experiences of memory and imagination they share with their readers? Hampl, Phillips and von Unwerth explore together these roots of the writer's art.

Patricia Hampl is the author of two books of poetry and several prose works, including the acclaimed memoir A Romantic Education, which won a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, and most recently, I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in general nonfiction. Her prose has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, Granta, Best American Short Stories, Anteaus and Ploughshares. A MacArthur Fellow, she is Regents' Professor of English at the University on Minnesota. She is currently at work on The Florist's Daughter, a memoir which will be published by Harcourt next year.

Anne Golomb Hoffman is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Fordham University, Affiliate Scholar at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, and an Affiliate Member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Arthur Phillips is the author of the novel Prague, which won the L.A. Times Book Award for First Fiction in 2004. His critically acclaimed second novel The Egyptologist, a national bestseller, is on its way to being translated into 22 languages. He lives in Brooklyn and is at work on Angelica, a novel set in Victorian England, scheduled for publication by Random House.

Matthew von Unwerth is the author of Freud's Requiem: Memory, Mourning and the Invisible History of a Summer Walk (Riverhead/Penguin, 2005). He is Director of the A.A. Brill Library of The New York Psychoanalytic Institute and a Coordinator of the Philoctetes Center. He is a candidate in psychoanalytic training in New York.


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