Tag Archives: memoir

James Campbell — My Korean War Stories

In December 1948, James Campbell, age 15, joined the U.S. Army. June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. Campbell, stationed in Japan, was among the first U.S. soldiers to join the conflict. The book is a collection of stories about a young soldier’s experience in the war.

His stories run the gamut of emotions—anger, heartbreak, apprehension, comradery, even humor. Campbell lets you see and feel the horrors of war through the eyes of a boy becoming a man.

This is not a book I would pick to read. I’m not into war stories. But I helped edit and format the book and of course had to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. James Campbell knows how to tell a story.

Stephen King — On Writing

Without electricity after Hurricane Irma, I read the two library books I had in two days. The library wasn’t open so I perused my shelves for books to read. I went through a few books I hadn’t read, some I’d bought from authors and some people had given to me. One that I read many years ago and remembered liking was Stephen King’s On Writing. I may have gotten more out of it this time around.

The book is a combination of memoir and advice about writing. The first section, “C.V.,” is a condensed life story as it relates to being a writer—an interesting story in itself. The second section, “On Writing,” is all about the art and craft. He starts by giving us the Great Commandment, “read a lot, write a lot.”

King lists four levels of writers—bad writers, competent writers, good writers, and geniuses—and believes there is no way to make a competent writer from a bad one or to turn a good writer into a great one, but a competent writer can become a good writer. This requires a toolbox: the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, and elements of style) and a second level (hard work, dedication, and timely help). He also emphasizes rewriting and editing. Two of his rules:  “Omit needless words” and “2nd draft = 1st Draft – 10%.”

You’ve probably heard of the two types of writers—“plotters” who plan their books in advance and “pantsters” who write by the seat of their pants. Stephen King is the later and so am I. He claims he never plots a book. I like King’s ideas about writing is that they coincide with my own. And what he produces is very good storytelling.

The third section of the book, “On Living,” is back to memoir. He talks about his accident (he was hit by a car), recovery, and return to writing. This is followed by “And Further More, Part I and Part II.” Part I is about editing and Part II is a book list. And I forgot to mention the three forwards in the beginning of the book.

I enjoyed the first reading and again the second time around.

Michael Chabon — Moonglow

Moonglow is a very different book—a fictionalized memoir or autobiographical novel. We don’t know how much of the novel is true (or true as remembered) and how much is Michael’s imagination.

Michael visits his dying grandfather, a man who has never talked about his life. But whether because he is dying or the effects of medication, the grandfather pours out stories of love, war, prison, of working as an engineer in the space industry, and stories of Michael’s grandmother and mother. Mixed in with the stories told by the grandfather are Michael’s own memories and stories told by his mother. The events are in no particular order, but they weave a picture of a family.

I enjoyed the read and came to admire the grandfather, even though he was not always likeable. I recommend this book for someone who likes a book off the beaten path.