Years ago and long before the internet, I used to devour his essays in the back of Time magazine. Time arrived in the mail on Thursdays and ld would find me finishing it up just about the time he walked in from work. It was always an extra delight when Roger Rosenblatt was the featured essayist. He is a calm and sane writer and when I finish reading something he has written I feel more peaceful and less afraid. Weird, I know.
If you haven't read anything he's written, you should. His latest book about the craft of writing, Unless It Moves The Human Heart offers great insights. PBS has been doing some interviews and question and answer segments with him, too.
On personal narrative:
Viewers wanted to know how to write one, and how to get started. The advice I give my students is not to plant themselves at a desk, but rather to go for a walk, a run, a bike ride -- anything to clear their minds, and create a receptive state. Then wait for an image to come to you. An image, not an idea. And an image will come to you, always. I cannot explain why. When it does, follow it, no matter how strange it may seem. It will lead you to a memory, and the memory to something important in yourself. In a way, all writing is personal narrative, because writing validates our lives. The image will lead you to the significant memory, and you'll be on your way.
And I love this, from his Rules for Aging
Rule #1: It doesn't matter. Whatever you think matters - doesn't. Follow this rule, and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late, or early; if you are here, or if you are there; if you said it, or did not say it; if you were clever, or if you were stupid; if you are having a bad hair day, or a no hair day; if your boss looks at you cockeyed; if your girlfriend or boyfriend looks at you cockeyed; if you don't get that promotion, or prize, or house, or if you do. It doesn't matter.
Oh and Rule #2 serves to confirm the quote You wouldn't worry about what people thought about you if you knew how little they did.
NOBODY IS THINKING ABOUT YOU Yes, I know, you are certain that your friends are becoming your enemies; that your grocer, garbage man, clergyman, sister-in-law, and your dog are all of the opinion that you have put on weight, that you have lost your touch, that you have lost your mind; furthermore, you are convinced that everyone spends two-thirds of every day commenting on your disintegration, denigrating your work, plotting your assassination. I promise you: Nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves--just like you.
His books. Any one of which would make for a definite MoDa bookclub contender, eh?
Black Fiction (1976)
Children of War (1983)
Life Itself (1993)
Coming Apart: A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969 (1997)
Consuming Desires: Consumption, Culture, and the Pursuit of Happiness (1999)
Rules for Aging (2000)
Where We Stand (2002)
Anything Can Happen (2004)
Lapham Rising (2007)
Making Toast (2010) (this written in response to his daughter Amy's death)
Unless it Moves the Human Heart (2011)