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The Scarlet & Black

Non-fiction writer shares her latest work through Writers@Grinnell

Acclaimed non-fiction writer and poet Patricia Hampl read from her latest memoir, “The Florist’s Daughter,” and a book-in-progress entitled “The Art of the Wasted Day” as part of the Writers@Grinnell program Thursday evening. Both of the books explore the themes that have dominated Hampl’s 25 year career—history, memory and how writing recreates our perceptions of the past.

Patricia Hampl
- Abraham Kohrman

From her unfinished book, Hampl read a section about her youth during the dawn of the television era when she discovered that “history is boring.” Then, an excerpt from “The Florist’s Daughter” found Hampl by her mother’s deathbed, but, as is the case in much of her work, the narrative soon shifted backward to her childhood in her father’s florist shop.

Reading to a large audience of students, faculty and visiting alumni, Hampl’s relaxed demeanor lent itself to recreating the lost world of her childhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. Incidentally, F. Scott Fitzgerald is also a St. Paul native, a connection that she has emphasized by writing about his work.

At the end of the reading, an audience member asked Hampl if writing about the past had affected her memory of it. Hampl explained that her work was constructed with memories that she “created honestly.” History itself may be boring, but Hampl’s introspective, careful recreations of the past are certainly not.

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