My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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detached empathy

House guests from Vancouver, mother and daughter, wonderful women – such a pleasure to talk about the importance of keeping the Haida language alive and the future of salmon. Not things I usually think about in the course of my Toronto day. It’s a joy to share my house with old friends and introduce them to the garden’s inhabitants.

Just ate, for lunch, a salad of my own lettuce and four small tomatoes, with for dessert, one ripe raspberry and one ripe strawberry (and a lot of chocolate, which so far, unfortunately, is not growing outside.)

At the recommendation of my fellow blogger Theresa Kishkan, I’m reading a superb memoir, “Burning the Days,” by James Salter, an acclaimed American writer who never found a broad readership and who died a few days ago. Beautifully written, inspiring.

Here’s an interesting bit by Vivian Gornick about memoir:

The persona in a nonfiction narrative is an unsurrogated one. Here the writer must identify openly with those very same defenses and embarrassments that the novelist or the poet is once removed from. It’s like lying down on the couch in public — and while a writer may be willing to do just that, it is a strategy that most often simply doesn’t work. Think of how many years on the couch it takes to speak about oneself, but without all the whining and complaining, the self-hatred and the self-justification that make the analysand a bore to all the world but the analyst. The unsurrogated narrator has the monumental task of transforming low-level self-interest into the kind of detached empathy required of a piece of writing that is to be of value to the disinterested reader.
Yet the creation of such a persona is vital in an essay or a memoir. It is the instrument of illumination. Without it there is neither subject nor story. To achieve it, the the writer of memoir or essay undergoes an apprenticeship as soul-searching as any undergone by novelist or poet: the twin struggle to know not only why one is speaking but who is speaking.
“Transforming low-level self-interest into the kind of detached empathy required of a piece of writing that is to be of value to the disinterested reader” … That’s what I teach. 

And the U of T class ended yesterday. One student just emailed, “I signed up for your class by chance and it turned out to one of the best decisions I made this year (so far!). I hope to keep you updated with future writings and any writing group happenings with fellow classmates.”

I hope so too. 



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


Coming soon

A new book by Beth Kaplan, published by Mosaic Press – “Midlife Solo”

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