Books by Patricia Hampl

PATRICIA HAMPL is the author of three memoirs: A Romantic Education, Virgin Time, and I Could Tell You Stories; and two collections of poetry. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship, among many other awards. She lives in St. Paul, where she is Regents Pr

Released: April 17, 2018

"'Loneliness eats away at you,' writes the author. 'Solitude fills and fills you.' A captivating and revelatory memoir."
A writer's life is conveyed through "a lens of penetrating inquiry." Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

"A memoir for memoirists to admire—with language that pierces."
A dutiful daughter—and superb memoirist—reflects upon the deaths of her parents. Read full book review >
BLUE ARABESQUE by Patricia Hampl
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

"An artful, affecting memoir whose lessons arrive in a delicious whisper."
Charmed in youth by a Matisse at the Art Institute of Chicago, a memoirist (I Could Tell You Stories, 1999, etc.) later pursues the painter's story and discovers more of her own. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1999

Those tired of the reductive view of autobiography as voyeur's toy will welcome these investigations on the form's redemptive powers and link to history. In her collection, memoirist Hampl (English/Univ. of Minnesota; Virgin Time, 1992, etc.) offers as subjects a range of autobiographical writers, including Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Czeslaw Milosz, Edith Stein, Anne Frank, and St. Augustine. She links them through her introductory essays, in which she plumbs the importance of memoir, which provides readers with "the deeply satisfying sense of being spoken to privately" and offers writers the chance "to find not only a self but a world," a world they discover by telling "their mind, not their story." In discussing her subjects" minds, Hampl reveals her own: She is a poet, a pilgrim, someone old enough to have loved a Vietnam draft resister and have lost friends, whose memory she appropriates for her writing. Like many essayists, she is more memorable for her epigrammatic observations than her arguments. Readers need not accept Hampl's analysis of Sylvia Plath's poetry or of her own life to allow her belief in "the primacy of the first-person voice in American imaginative writing." Disagree with her easy contention that "Religion is typically too constrained by the systems and institutions that claim it," but accept that "To write one's life is to live it twice." For, as she says of St. Augustine's Confessions, what matters is the mind at work: "Consciousness, not experience, is the galvanizing core of a personal story." Dogged and various in her explorations on memoir, she gives weight to her belief in the intellectual need in our culture to become 'sophisticated about the function of memory." Read full book review >
VIRGIN TIME by Patricia Hampl
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

Hampl, a poet, professor (English/Univ. of Minnesota), and MacArthur Fellow, peers into her soul and finds the Church. A rambling, radiant travelogue-cum-memoir, a sequel of sorts to the author's acclaimed autobiography, A Romantic Education (1981). Raised by devout Catholic parents, schooled by nuns, Hampl nevertheless finds that ``most of the time I'm so removed from belief I confuse it with having an opinion.'' To resolve this dilemma, she heads to Europe to ``see the old world of Catholicism.'' Most of her time is spent in Assisi, scrambling up holy mountains, kneeling in crypts, sifting her past, recording the chatter of priests, nuns, and other seekers. Just about all of it is passed on to us: encounters with fellow travelers whose passions and prattle fill up too much of the text; superb memories of a Catholic childhood drenched in dogma, instructed by nuns who radiated ``a bracing coolness''; gems of theological insight (``it was integral to the fundamental inspiration of Christianity that Jesus was poor. He was nothing and nobody, and therefore he could be a metaphor from minute one. He was the Word made flesh''); too many passages that sound like warmed-over Annie Dillard (on an airplane, ``wrinkles of terror run over the soles of my feet. My toes curl towards earth''). Over all hovers the kindly presence of St. Francis; beneath all runs the urgency of Hampl's quest, driven by the realization that ``God was not at stake....prayer was the real question.'' A tentative answer comes, oddly, not in Assisi but in a tacked-on visit to a Cistercian monastery in California. Much like a High Mass: rich, beautiful, boring, elevating. Read full book review >