Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Old Friend From Far Away – Goldberg – A Review

| 7 Comments

So I did it, I finally finished Natalie Goldberg’s new book (is it even new anymore?) Old Friend from Far Away. And I really appreciated it. It’s not a book I would say I loved, not because it’s not great, but because it’s not the kind of book that you read right through. It’s made up of chunks – some of one or two lines and some of several pages – that all address various aspects of memoir writing. Some of the sections are writing prompts, and some are reflections on the writing process. I loved the process pieces, but I found the prompts to be extremely helpful. (Who knew I could write so much about a swimming pool?)

Here’s a section from near the end of the book?
The author Willa Cather believed that if you had a wish for something from a young age — for example, being an opera singer — and you continually made effort at it, you would live a fulfilled life. It didn’t matter if you were on stage at the Metropolitan; maybe you sang in a local theater; perhaps you took lessons and belted it out in the shower and at family gatherings. That was good enough. The important thing was to stay connected with your dream and that effort would result in a basic happiness.
Cather said that those who gave up carried something painful, cut off inside, and that their lives had a sense of incompleteness.
(p. 275)

It’s that kind of information coupled with the insights that follow (the necessity of trying to do what you love no matter what) that made me love this book. I will keep it and dip into it often in my writing practice.

Has anyone else read this book? If so, what did you think? Did you read another book about writing that you really loved? Why did you like it? Any that you hated? Why?

Just a little note here at the end to say a big thank you to all of you who read my blog. I can’t tell you what it means to me to know you’re out there. Have a beautiful day.
Killing Me Softly with Your Music by Rabataller “Killing Me Softly with Your Music” by Rabataller

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • http://wordlily.wordpress.com Word Lily

    I loved Bird by Bird.

  • http://qugrainne.com qugrainne

    Hi Andi, It has been many, many years since I read Willa Cather, so I have no memory of this. It does, however, fit perfectly with my father’s concept of “you can do anything you want.”
    I truly believe this, and Cather explains it perfectly.

    I have seen Bird by Bird mentioned so often lately, but I have never read it, so I picked it up at the library last night. I am anxious to begin after reading the blurb. I really enjoyed Stephen King’s book on writing too. I had to admit in a review of it that I have not read any of King’s books. That sort of scary stuff gives me a stomach ache, but his book on writing, which was part autobiography, was funny,sad,wonderful and inspiring.

  • http://litlove.wordpress.com litlove

    The Willa Cather quotation is lovely, very uplifting. And it’s a great pleasure to read you, Andi. Thank you for being there.

  • http://estellasrevenge.blogspot.com Andi

    The Goldberg book sounds exceedingly helpful and interesting. I haven’t read any of her stuff, so I’ll have to give it a go. And the bit from Cather is amazing. I couldn’t agree more!

  • http://www.stu-stusplace.blogspot.com stu

    Surely that’s the sign of a practical workbook; something that you can dip into and still get something out of. If you ever get a sudden urge to write poetry, try Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled.

  • http://bookfoolery.blogspot.com/ Nancy, aka Bookfool

    My favorite is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I haven’t made it through a Goldberg book, but I love that Cather quote!

  • Valeria

    I really enjoyed Bird by Bird By Anne Lamott, as many other people have said in the comments section. Although I have to say, for a humorous take on the art of writing, one of my favorite essays is by Steve Almond. I forget the exact name of the essay, but it’s in his latest book “Not that You Asked.” It’s just well, REALLY hilarious, and oddly insightful as well.

    But I noticed that you also mentioned in your blog post, about Natalie Goldberg’s book. I came across an interview with her where she talks about how Zen Buddhism, which apparently she is a student of, plays a big role in how she approaches her life and her writing. Might be an interesting listen in order to pick her brain a bit more perhaps.

    http://thoughtcast.org/casts/natalie-goldberg