Hot Best Seller

Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir

Availability: Ready to download

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. In contemporary America, land of tell-all memoirs, self-improvement, and endless reality television, what kind of person denies the opportunity to present himself in his own voice, to lead with "I"? How many layers of a person's life can be peeled back before the self vanishes? In this provocative, enormously witty Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. In contemporary America, land of tell-all memoirs, self-improvement, and endless reality television, what kind of person denies the opportunity to present himself in his own voice, to lead with "I"? How many layers of a person's life can be peeled back before the self vanishes? In this provocative, enormously witty series of meditations, Ander Monson faces down the idea of memoir, in all its guises, grappling with the lure of self-interest and self-presentation. While setting out to describe the experience of serving as head juror at the trial of Michael Antwone Jordan, he can't help veering off into an examination of his own transgressions, inadvertent and otherwise. He finds the hours he spends trying to get to Gerald R. Ford's funeral more worthy of scrutiny than the event itself. He considers his addiction to chemically concocted Doritos and disappointment in the plain, natural corn chip, and finds that the manufactured, considered form, at least in snacks, is ultimately a more rewarding experience than the "truth." So why is America so crazy about accurately confessional memoirs?


Compare

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. In contemporary America, land of tell-all memoirs, self-improvement, and endless reality television, what kind of person denies the opportunity to present himself in his own voice, to lead with "I"? How many layers of a person's life can be peeled back before the self vanishes? In this provocative, enormously witty Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. In contemporary America, land of tell-all memoirs, self-improvement, and endless reality television, what kind of person denies the opportunity to present himself in his own voice, to lead with "I"? How many layers of a person's life can be peeled back before the self vanishes? In this provocative, enormously witty series of meditations, Ander Monson faces down the idea of memoir, in all its guises, grappling with the lure of self-interest and self-presentation. While setting out to describe the experience of serving as head juror at the trial of Michael Antwone Jordan, he can't help veering off into an examination of his own transgressions, inadvertent and otherwise. He finds the hours he spends trying to get to Gerald R. Ford's funeral more worthy of scrutiny than the event itself. He considers his addiction to chemically concocted Doritos and disappointment in the plain, natural corn chip, and finds that the manufactured, considered form, at least in snacks, is ultimately a more rewarding experience than the "truth." So why is America so crazy about accurately confessional memoirs?

30 review for Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/8502143... It is easy to discount the troubles, and even the successes of others, but you won't find any of that here, or even sparks coming from off the blazing speed of my typewriter. I, too, like Ander, could type 55 words per minute in Mr. Sventko's typing class, and I probably could have done even better had he not been the feared football coach he was. My stupid spelling mistakes were what bothered me and made me have to slow down. His daughter Marcia consisten http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/8502143... It is easy to discount the troubles, and even the successes of others, but you won't find any of that here, or even sparks coming from off the blazing speed of my typewriter. I, too, like Ander, could type 55 words per minute in Mr. Sventko's typing class, and I probably could have done even better had he not been the feared football coach he was. My stupid spelling mistakes were what bothered me and made me have to slow down. His daughter Marcia consistently kicked my ass in typing and it gave her a superiority over me she probably needed in order to get through her routinely boring days. The recreational drugs that others of us engaged in made for a high school education a little bit more adventurous than the typical high school cheerleader like Marcia. Try taking mescaline and attending a Paul Butterfield trigonometry class. Or be a student teacher working under the tutelage of the school's golf coach in a special education classroom. Once I even dropped a hit of blotter acid too late in the day and had to play a qualifying round for placement seed in our following day's school-sponsored golf match. There was no possible way to keep track of where my new golf balls were flying off to after striking them so hard with the intensity of a rapidly blooming acid trip. Thank goodness I was playing with a young square geek who would go on after college to become the county's prosecuting attorney. Back then he had a proficiency for cheating on the golf course, so me offering him the freedom to blatantly adjust his own score if he would allow my reentry, without penalty, of a new golf ball in place of the lost one still flying around somewhere out there in the cosmos seemed like a very good deal for both of us. Neither one of us ever spoke of that day together on the golf course again, and we were both lucky not to have been found cheating on our scorecards. I am sort of a heel for bringing this subject up now but I wanted to make the point of how a born cheater can naturally years later slip into the county prosecutor's seat and seem to do a pretty good job of keeping accurate the public score against its own criminals. Ander Monson wrote some pretty good pieces collected here in Vanishing Point. Were they perfect and without blemish? I think not. There were fits of brilliance to be found here and there, and the first essay titled Voir Dire was fantastic. Voir Dire is an essay about Ander Monson's work as a juror in an important trial. In his essay Mr. Monson related many other side stories and notations, one of which was the absolute necessity for factual truth in nonfiction which by the way both he and I believe is completely impossible. The problem is, however, that magazines such as The Believer stationed out in San Francisco itself demands facticity if you want them to publish your nonfiction. Voir Dire was accepted for publication in The Believer and the magazine insisted on getting their hands on certain documents and that additional contacts be made concerning some of the statements quoted in the essay by Monson in order for the magazine's fact checkers to confirm the accuracy of his piece. Monson did go along with their demands and his piece was eventually published even though in this same essay Monson admits that things are not really as accurate as they seem. What I liked about Monson's Voir Dire was his flitting away and into other topics related in ways to himself or the defendant in the case he was chosen to be a juror for. He eventually told us all we needed to know about the case and in the process explained about his colonoscopy he had at the age of thirty-two, a colonoscopy that he didn't need based on wrong information he had about his mother's own early death at the very same age of thirty-two from colon cancer. What interested me most about this was not the error over the actual cause of her death, or the insurance company's confusion over who was responsible to pay for this mistake, or even that Ander had the awful colonoscopy procedure done at such an early age, but that I myself had just had my fourth routine colonoscopy the day before reading his essay. My arse was still sore from all the emptying and wiping, the disgusting four hour lemon-lime liquid prep, the drugs they put me under that permitted me to say such terrible things reported back to me afterwards. And in addition to all that, the (I think) normal flirting with the nurses that one must expect came from being drugged and a not-so-deeper part of my consciousness. It was even more uncanny to me that the beginning of this essay was another shared experience with Ander of me also being a juror. A few years ago I was committed myself to jury duty and was picked as one of twelve to decide a criminal case of the alleged defendant's excessive violence against a customer while in the performance of his job as a bouncer at a local strip club. After listening to the testimony of all the witnesses and viewing pictures of the completely pummeled man who ended up in the hospital and would probably never be the same it was obvious to all that the bouncer was definitely guilty and certainly without any sliver of a doubt. None of the jurors ever got to decide the case or even talk about it as the defendant's lawyer knew his client would be found guilty and opted to plea bargain instead of handing his client's fate over to a jury sure to convict him. I felt robbed as I had fairly listened intently to both sides, I had taken good notes and was prepared to argue for a guilty verdict if need be, but we never got the chance to take even an anonymous vote. Monson, on the other hand, took notes too and at least was elected foreman of the juried clan. Besides getting an essay out of his time spent deciding his case in court he also had the honor of standing up and announcing to the judge the jury's decision of guilty. The Voir Dire essay says a lot in a roundabout way about Ander Monson's screed against nonfiction, and the juror story was simply a vehicle for him to say what it was he really wanted to say. He also wrote of the Gerald R. Ford memorial funeral service and procession held in Grand Rapids as well as a lengthy, and quite interesting piece on the money brand of snack chips, Doritos. I did not much like the Dungeons & Dragons essay, but I am not born of that time period and have never played a Play Station type Game Boy slash computer game in my life. And for the record, I will state that Ander Monson is not David Foster Wallace, and in addition he is no Hunter S. Thompson. But I will say he is loads better than Jonathan Franzen and the other wannabes out there writing essays today. To have him compared to an inconsequential writer the likes of Tao Lin I do find more than a bit disconcerting. There is a whole lot of upside to Ander Monson and I think, almost snidely and certainly happily, that already Tao Lin has had his fifteen minutes of fame, and for what, I clearly am not sure of. Another fairly new writer I am currently involved in reading goes by the name of John Jeremiah Sullivan and he is not too shabby, and his best work is surely ahead of him too. Look also for a fellow by the name of Lee Klein. His star is definitely rising. But I certainly do recommend this book to anyone wanting a new experience in the form of an essay. Monson is fresh, and like myself, was fortunate to be born in northern Michigan, and in his case, the Upper Peninsula in a cold and lonely town named Houghton.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nicola

    This not-memoir has quite a bit to say about memoirs and their proliferation in today's world. As someone whose screened memoirs for a competition before, I appreciated many of Monson's rant(s) on the unmodified, un-crafted, solipsistic "I" that, yes, "one-on-one over a beer" is interesting, but not in book form. Don't just tell a story, craft it, have what Monson defines as an "awareness, a sense that the writer has reckoned with the self, the material, as well as what it means to reveal it." A This not-memoir has quite a bit to say about memoirs and their proliferation in today's world. As someone whose screened memoirs for a competition before, I appreciated many of Monson's rant(s) on the unmodified, un-crafted, solipsistic "I" that, yes, "one-on-one over a beer" is interesting, but not in book form. Don't just tell a story, craft it, have what Monson defines as an "awareness, a sense that the writer has reckoned with the self, the material, as well as what it means to reveal it." Amen. There's something delightful in the way Monson is fascinated and often embraces new and obsolete technologies. This is not REALLY the popular stance among cultured people. There's a hipster sarcasm with which many people approach let's say/use Doritos. But you really get a sense that Monson has a genuine affection for their artificiality, their, as he puts it, "transubstantiation" in your mouth. There's no unsavory aftertaste (har har) of pretense here. And his website is good fun: www.otherelectricities.com Favorite imagined scene: Monson interviewing Gary Snyder, the Buddhist nature poet, asking him if he "self-googles."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    This one is right on time for so many reasons--it includes a lot about leaving one city and moving to another, specifically to Tuscon, Arizona and the U of A. I agree with so many of his observations about nonfiction, it's strengths and also its tendencies toward self-preoccupation. How self-preoccupation can be a way of loving the whole unwieldy society that grew you. I think we're not very alike, but we think very alike. Lots of parantheticals, and thoughts that have other thoughts as tumors a This one is right on time for so many reasons--it includes a lot about leaving one city and moving to another, specifically to Tuscon, Arizona and the U of A. I agree with so many of his observations about nonfiction, it's strengths and also its tendencies toward self-preoccupation. How self-preoccupation can be a way of loving the whole unwieldy society that grew you. I think we're not very alike, but we think very alike. Lots of parantheticals, and thoughts that have other thoughts as tumors and growths and rabbit holes and roads diverging in yellow woods and so on. You like that sort of writing or you don't, but that's very much how brains work. It seems out there, but it's quintessential essay tradition. Also, I came across his observations about Subway while eating a Subway sandwich. Considering how often I read while eating and how often I eat Subway, odds are better than you might think.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie Willingham

    I was really excited about this book but I ended up not even finishing it. It was snarky in all the wrong ways for my taste. I love postmodernism and questions of selfhood in the 21st century but the book didn't seem to evolve for me even though the individual essays worked. I felt it hit the same note repeatedly. I was really excited about this book but I ended up not even finishing it. It was snarky in all the wrong ways for my taste. I love postmodernism and questions of selfhood in the 21st century but the book didn't seem to evolve for me even though the individual essays worked. I felt it hit the same note repeatedly.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ally

    Ander Morson is my new best friend and I didn’t even like him at first. His ability to remember is inept and he admits it. He gets a colonoscopy he doesn’t need. He breaks rules (in the jury room he hides the notebook in his pants instead of turning it in) and he admits he edits and lies in his Wikipedia. He is prentious and funny and is a true resident of our generation. But WTF is he talking about? And WTH is a Not Memoir. And how do I rate this book? There are long sections in his essays about Ander Morson is my new best friend and I didn’t even like him at first. His ability to remember is inept and he admits it. He gets a colonoscopy he doesn’t need. He breaks rules (in the jury room he hides the notebook in his pants instead of turning it in) and he admits he edits and lies in his Wikipedia. He is prentious and funny and is a true resident of our generation. But WTF is he talking about? And WTH is a Not Memoir. And how do I rate this book? There are long sections in his essays about some things I don’t know very well – like the jury duty stuff and World’s Biggest Ball of Paint and the marketing of Doritos. I did catch up on typography, page layout and InDesign because I went to grad school for publication design. If he were in the room, Ander and I could have a conversation on this. I once had a long argument with a respected writer who demanded I put the double space back in after periods because it was HIS book. I found daggers and asteriks to be okay, and as a gamer chick I understand weapons and quests when I see them. However, some of Ander’s not-memoir (as opposed to a non-memoir) could have been written in Klingon for all I know. I googled the word Assembloir so I could understand something and up popped ANDER MORSON. The Disclaimer made the most sense: “I’m writing to approach, through words, that empty shape inside me, to creep around it, like a hunter, to work out how to kill it, to know its territory.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Roney

    To be honest, I never fully finished this book, as I found it got tedious for me. Ander Monson is undoubtedly intelligent and provocative, but I get tired of people writing memoirs that they claim are something else. They have the same urges of self-exploration but refuse to be categorized with the "lesser" beings of those who don't foreground an academic skepticism about self. The intellectual work of this book just felt self-serving to me. I got bored. Some people get bored with "real-life" st To be honest, I never fully finished this book, as I found it got tedious for me. Ander Monson is undoubtedly intelligent and provocative, but I get tired of people writing memoirs that they claim are something else. They have the same urges of self-exploration but refuse to be categorized with the "lesser" beings of those who don't foreground an academic skepticism about self. The intellectual work of this book just felt self-serving to me. I got bored. Some people get bored with "real-life" stories, even when writers tell them with subtlety and distinction; I get bored with showing off. I'm not saying I'm right--I'm sardonically ashamed of myself--but whatever.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Gilsdorf

    BOOK REVIEW Making memorable points, for some wrong reasons By Ethan Gilsdorf | Boston Globe June 9, 2010 If the memoir is a bruised, battered, and beleaguered genre, then “Vanishing Point’’ kicks it into the grave for good. Not that Ander Monson has done anything particularly heinous. The author of another nonfiction book, “Neck Deep and Other Predicaments,’’ a novel, and two collections of poetry, Monson is not out to smash conventions or hammer manifestos on the doors of academe. But the very admi BOOK REVIEW Making memorable points, for some wrong reasons By Ethan Gilsdorf | Boston Globe June 9, 2010 If the memoir is a bruised, battered, and beleaguered genre, then “Vanishing Point’’ kicks it into the grave for good. Not that Ander Monson has done anything particularly heinous. The author of another nonfiction book, “Neck Deep and Other Predicaments,’’ a novel, and two collections of poetry, Monson is not out to smash conventions or hammer manifestos on the doors of academe. But the very admission, almost challenge, put forth in the subtitle to his new book, “Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir,’’ reminds us that in the post-“A Million Little Pieces,’’ reality TV, webcam era, anything nonfiction and told from that precarious, first-person singular pronoun that Monson calls “I’s asserting themselves and their claims to truth’’ is not to be trusted. Or, only trusted once you know the rules of the game. Monson provides a key. “Vanishing Point’’ is a collection of essays, musings, and considerations. There is no narrative. We have a kind of memoir-by-kaleidoscope here, but also a discussion about the impossible, infuriating task of writing a memoir. Monson remains a moving target, but it’s a hoot trying to track him down. In an early essay called “Voir Dire,’’ Monson is the jury foreman on a trial of a defendant charged with bank fraud; before the hearing, he judged a nonfiction book contest. “Listen to what happened to me,’’ he sees each manuscript imploring. “They suppose their I’s are solid, inviolable, made up of evidence and verifiable memory.’’ Here, Monson makes us see the unexpected parallels between the legal system and writerly expression. Elsewhere, he connects the band New Order with the funeral of President Ford. Each of his assertions is hedged with asides, retractions, tangents, found objects, lists, asterisks, side notes, and typographical tricks. “You no longer have to be notable to write a memoir and have it read,’’ one footnote insists. Later, as if to prove or make fun of the point, the essay “Solipsism’’ begins with the word “me’’ repeated 1,003 times. The aesthetic calls to mind a mashup of David Foster Wallace, W.G. Sebald, David Shields and Montaigne. Like Shields experimenting in “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto’’ with “conscious, self-conscious, conspicuous appropriation,’’ Monson does much the same. Three chapters use a technique called “Assembloir’’; stealing lines from some 85 memoirs, he slaps them together to propose a memoir ars poetica. Assemble + memoir = assembloir. If we must swallow the occasional banal comment (“the city contains countless stories’’) and worry this bricolage of text might veer into precious territory, Monson strikes pay dirt often enough. The chapter “Ander Alert’’ is an astute meditation on Internet fame. Monson discovers a Wikipedia page about him, but realizes it’s slated for deletion due to lack of “notability.’’ So he seeks a “champion, someone to come to my electronic wikirescue.’’ Not LOL funny, but clever. The search takes him to other people named Ander, and other selves within himself: “editor, teacher, writer, job hunter, disc golfer, lawn mower, husband, . . . authoritarian, ironist, Dungeon Master, etc.’’ He finds new versions of himself on MySpace, Facebook, even playing Dungeons & Dragons. Awash in blogs, YouTube, and Doritos, Monson finds that his “I is a solo I in the middle of thousands of these I’s.’’ His “I is infinitively scaleable.’’ His “I’’ is also exhausted. Which leads him to admit, “I have wanted to vanish for a very long time.’’ Memoir will do that to you. Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at [email protected] © Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I'm a little bit at a loss about what needs to be said about this after D Shield's write up in the Times. I liked the book a lot, but, and this might just be because I'm kind of a jerk, I'm not going to talk too much about that. To me, there are more interesting things to say about this book than enumerating its virtues of intelligence, invention, and stylish writing (all of which it has in spades). What struck me was the way this book is different than Neck Deep, and what that means for how I'm I'm a little bit at a loss about what needs to be said about this after D Shield's write up in the Times. I liked the book a lot, but, and this might just be because I'm kind of a jerk, I'm not going to talk too much about that. To me, there are more interesting things to say about this book than enumerating its virtues of intelligence, invention, and stylish writing (all of which it has in spades). What struck me was the way this book is different than Neck Deep, and what that means for how I'm responding to it.... Neck Deep reads like a collection of essays, each one with its own scaffolding and particular focus-- this book feels, paradoxically, much more like a book. Paradoxically, because the limits of books, both in terms of what they do (especially, though not only when they are memoirs) and in terms of them as bounded physical objects, gets undermined in the book itself-- there are, after all, the "daggered" words, which when you visit the website for the book open additional content, and not even finished content but content that the book at least promises might expand, and one would hope, contract and change altogether. So this is, in some senses, a book that is by definition unfinished. That's all well and good, but it presents a tension with the book we have here, which feels, in a lot of ways, finished-- I'm referring to the fact that many of the essays, or maybe they are fragments of essays, seem to refer back to other essays and comment on them, in tones of finality-- I mean, for example, the story about the big ball of paint, which is introduced in two of three essays before we get the whole story, and which then, IIRC, gets finished in the midst of another essay. The same can be said for the asterisk sections, which can, I think, be read together and seen as complete. And the sections that include the first, and final paragraphs, or other memoirs, is another terminal signal, that there is something in the shape and content of this book, as published. I don't mean it as a critique-- on the contrary, I find it an interesting and provocative tension here, one that makes me think about the questions it raises rather than assenting to or disagreeing with a thesis that is more fully, I don't know, completed? My sense of this as a book, though, makes me think Voir Dire doesn't really belong in this book-- I understand the thematics of the essay and how it reflects those of the MS as a whole-- I liked the essay when I read it in Believer and I still like it-- but I think that is doesn't belong here. Maybe because it does resolve, in its fifteen pages or so, all those issues that are reintroduced, and left open, in the essays that follow. And finally, as a book, the essays here don't seem as distinct from one another as those in Neck Deep did. I initially didn't notice much typographical hijinks when I flipped through this book. There are some, but they are of a different order than those in Neck Deep-- less, seemingly, bred in the matter of the essay than those in Neck Deep, and less distinct-- even saying, I wanted to read the one with the columns on the page is less interesting than saying, the one that's an index, or the one about snow. It's not a bad thing, reading this after Neck Deep. Like I said, I really liked it. But I do think its a qualitatively different reading experience than the other book, to a degree I'm (obviously) struggling to articulate. Maybe its a "difficult second album" paradox?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Schuyler

    I've had Monson on my radar for a long time now, probably ever since he wrote Vacationland, which seems like a long time ago and I have a vague recollection of him visiting my college campus for a reading, probably promoting Vacationland. Am I making this up? Not remembering it correctly? Whose to say. Also, I never ended up reading Vacationland, or haven't yet anyway. So, I was ready to enjoy Vanishing Point. I wanted to love it. I am excited about writers who choose to expand certain forms, in I've had Monson on my radar for a long time now, probably ever since he wrote Vacationland, which seems like a long time ago and I have a vague recollection of him visiting my college campus for a reading, probably promoting Vacationland. Am I making this up? Not remembering it correctly? Whose to say. Also, I never ended up reading Vacationland, or haven't yet anyway. So, I was ready to enjoy Vanishing Point. I wanted to love it. I am excited about writers who choose to expand certain forms, in this case, the essay. And while a few pieces were really excellent (like his piece on Doritos and artificial flavors or his eulogy-type thing on the death of Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax or his time serving jury duty) the others were a bit too circuitous for my taste, where Monson seemed to be wandering around this essay space he had created, not quite sure how he was going to write himself out of this subject he found himself in, which more often than not, were meanderings on the 'I' of memoirs. I think I could have appreciated the dissection if it had just been one essay on the 'I' but Monson kept coming back to it again and again, to the point where I didn't care anymore. But that's just me (well, it's always just me) and that subject didn't particularly catch my thinking fancy. I'll definitely read more Monson though. Vanishing Point is certainly on the experimental side, which I'm down with, but I'd like to read some of his more "traditional" stuff. And his poetry. Also, I will now try and stop using a 'double space' after the ends of sentences. I forget why exactly, but he touches on it briefly, something to do with Courier font and how it made the formatting all weird and so they (I don't know who they is) had to implement the 'double space', which really isn't needed with other fonts, and if you'll notice, books don't use the 'double space'. But now that I've taken a brief moment to do some research, a la Wikipedia, they say that the 'double space' has been carried over from type writers, when the ink ribbon would get would too dry and the period could sometimes not be seen clearly at the end of a sentence, so the writer would just use a double space to indicate the start of a new sentence. Oh man, I totally forgot to mention the website! Along with the print reading experience, various words throughout the text have a small dagger as an indicator to go onto the books website, input the indicated word into a search engine, and then a digression (or other various thing) pertaining to that word will appear. Kinda like web-based end notes. I was not always near a computer when I was reading the book, so I only used the site a few times, but it was a cool idea nonetheless. Though I usually read books to get away from computers. Fragmented knowledge! Quotes: "But still there is life there, even if in data fragments. All human lives can be described by this esoterica, this collection of descended asterisks. It's only in the tiny that anything matters or exists at all." pg.62 "Some true things are not dramatic. But the minutiae of our existences are. These are facts, friends, all twenty thousand boxes of our lives of eating them. We are surrounded by their ordinary glory." pg. 164

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    At 17, I had a job scraping paint for $5.25 an hour. I'd jab through layers of beige, back to original blue, through the strata of decades that had accrued on the colonial houses of the town where I grew up. This was utterly satisfying, tangible work. Most days—happy to have 44 dollars in my future pocket—I left with a grin (and a latex glob) on my face, with flecks of 1923 (and 1805) in my hair. In his pleasingly peculiar new book, Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir, Ander Monson performs a similar At 17, I had a job scraping paint for $5.25 an hour. I'd jab through layers of beige, back to original blue, through the strata of decades that had accrued on the colonial houses of the town where I grew up. This was utterly satisfying, tangible work. Most days—happy to have 44 dollars in my future pocket—I left with a grin (and a latex glob) on my face, with flecks of 1923 (and 1805) in my hair. In his pleasingly peculiar new book, Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir, Ander Monson performs a similar kind of scraping. Instead of a long-hidden coat of Sherwin Williams, though, it's the buried layers of his own personality that he looks to uncover. In his 19 essays, he approaches those “iterations of Monson” (130) by writing about an old notebook and a favorite pop tune, about Dungeons & Dragons, Deep Blue Something, or a forgotten flavor of Dorito. Even a giant ball of paint draws his essayistic attention, and all of these scrapings—“each element of et cetera” (178)—seem to represent a different version of “Ander,” part of “the pockmarked surface of the I: that's where the good stuff is” (17). But he wants to move past memoir's typical 'I' speaker, too, toward a kind of 'we' narrative. In my favorite essays of his, Monson explores the group dynamics during the funeral of Gerald Ford, or he writes exclusively in found-language from other memoirs, or he revels in the many-souled reaction (we-action?) to a woman's great karaoke performance. He's always happy to let his own story recede for a page or forty, and he argues that nonfictionists should take that stance more often, should concentrate on “actual evidence of actual lives” (76). Monson is fascinated by overlapping levels of information, of selfhood. Interestingly, then, he's preoccupied throughout the book with that multi-layered ball of paint, The World's Largest(!). In his conception, this ball of many coats seems to symbolize how our own slivers of memory, and peccadilloes, and trinkets, and favorite songs all glom onto each other to form the expanding, stratified muchness we call our culture. “And it continues to expand,” he writes. “Because of you. And you. Because of all of us” (89). He's painted many layers on the literal giant ball in Alexandria, Indiana, he tells us, and his book is a clear attempt to point out the innumerable paint-scrapings of his everyday life. If, ultimately, Ander Monson is like this giant ball of paint (as he'd have us believe he is), well, then, I enjoyed peeling away at the layers of his enigmatic, frenetic intelligence. As he uncovers different versions of himself in Vanishing Point, he proves that no one makes inquisitive, associative leaps quite like he does.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    (7/10) Vanishing Point is a collection of essays, chunks of memoir, and experimental nonfiction centred around the idea of memoir as a genre and its recent explosion in popularity. The best evidence of this is the cut-up "assembloirs" that dot the book, which reveal exactly how interchangable the contents of such books are. Monson's skepticism towards this boom is not exactly novel, and a good chunk of the meta-commentary is not really as clever as it thinks it is. In fact, there's the general s (7/10) Vanishing Point is a collection of essays, chunks of memoir, and experimental nonfiction centred around the idea of memoir as a genre and its recent explosion in popularity. The best evidence of this is the cut-up "assembloirs" that dot the book, which reveal exactly how interchangable the contents of such books are. Monson's skepticism towards this boom is not exactly novel, and a good chunk of the meta-commentary is not really as clever as it thinks it is. In fact, there's the general sense that Monson is trying too hard to be David Foster Wallace, an affliction common among contemporary writers. Still, it's hard to fault a writer making such an honest attempt to be experimental, and most of the experiments work. Most notable is "Solipism", an essay filtered through several formats and now with two or three layers of commentary alongside the original work, which are usually more interesting than the essay itself. It's also a nice reflection of the creative and editorial process in a visual medium, and one that forces you to deal with the page as an artifact in itself and not just a way of conveyinng information. The best parts are, interestingly enough, the essays on fast food restraunts as cultural common spaces and Monson's habit of collecting rare Doritos flavours. I think Ander Monson should write a book dedicated to junk food. I would definitely read that. (There was also some online content that was mentioned a couple times, but I didn't read it. It's May, I want to read on the back porch in the sun and not have to run to a computer every time there's an asterisk. Sorry.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    david

    imagine this: reading about the worlds largest ball of paint or the funeral service of gerald ford or dungeons and dragons is LESS interesting to read about than to listen to in conversation! who the fuck could have imagined? ....... after all that, he continued on to talk about doritos that taste like mountain dew and attempted to tie it to something of importance. this whole book... i heard the bookworm interview Monson and the Reality Hunger author did and figured that they would have been work imagine this: reading about the worlds largest ball of paint or the funeral service of gerald ford or dungeons and dragons is LESS interesting to read about than to listen to in conversation! who the fuck could have imagined? ....... after all that, he continued on to talk about doritos that taste like mountain dew and attempted to tie it to something of importance. this whole book... i heard the bookworm interview Monson and the Reality Hunger author did and figured that they would have been working on some fantastic advancements in literature, which is far over due. alas, alas... Both writers are self important asshats, it would seem. both are more interested in having wikipedia entries than writing things of matter. and the fact that both talk about memoirs being overwrought, only to write a book that is not only less than a memoir, but completely meaningless musings about themselves and their interactions with unimportant things. really fucking awful. i kept reading both until they were finished, hoping that some grand tie together at the end would make them worthwhile. they weren't. neither amount to much more than bullshit, which you can get much easier and cheaply from other, more interesting outlets.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dnicebear

    I learned about this book through a website devoted to writing memoirs, so I dutifully found it and began reading, intrigued by unusual formatting, obviously related to the author's being an experienced computer technician of some sort. As the plot (?) unfolds I learn that the author's experience includes being busted as a minor, involved in a felony credit card fraud. Then I look at his photograph on back and wonder if I really want to keep reading because he looks so angry, but I ignore my vis I learned about this book through a website devoted to writing memoirs, so I dutifully found it and began reading, intrigued by unusual formatting, obviously related to the author's being an experienced computer technician of some sort. As the plot (?) unfolds I learn that the author's experience includes being busted as a minor, involved in a felony credit card fraud. Then I look at his photograph on back and wonder if I really want to keep reading because he looks so angry, but I ignore my visual bias and discover I learn so much from this author, who is working with his own resistance in an artistic way. I especially love the way he compares his home town place (Grand Rapids, Michigan) with the place he moves to (Tucson, Arizona). I've always imagined Tucson as a city I would like, and Monson's description of the four ranges that rise all round help me realize why. "The downtown's smaller than the other former city, though the city is twice the size. Why bother with erecting high-rises or skyscrapers when you are cradled in four mountain ranges?" (p. 144) I have new ways to think about all the places in the world I've called home.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam Parlett

    I didnt like it. it was easy to see what he was doing satirizing the memoir but I just wasnt inpressed. The name of the person on trial that he juries (obviously metaphoric of the memoir genre on trial being judged the way the memoir is being judged) is well chosen with meaning and a slight twist in spelling to give the reader a bias from a racial perspective, but all in all it felt insultng to read. The point being made by example was the point that memoirs dont make points anymore, that author I didnt like it. it was easy to see what he was doing satirizing the memoir but I just wasnt inpressed. The name of the person on trial that he juries (obviously metaphoric of the memoir genre on trial being judged the way the memoir is being judged) is well chosen with meaning and a slight twist in spelling to give the reader a bias from a racial perspective, but all in all it felt insultng to read. The point being made by example was the point that memoirs dont make points anymore, that authors are too full of themselves to think anyone cares about their useless ramblings. But such a point could be directly stated in short essay form with psychological insight. the author seems to hild the misconception is that philosophy is somehow less entertaining than satire. And while from an entertainment perspective this may be true, the point really doesnt seem worth making sarcastically. Still worth reading tho if you read fast. If a book by this size will take you a week or more its not worth investing time into. But if you can handle it in a few days its definitely interesting. I want to put some of this authors other works on my reading list.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Oh Ander... Ander Monson is doing stuff with nonfiction that I don't think anyone else is doing. He's experimenting with form (endless parentheticals and footnotes and sidebars and links and asterisks) and subject matter. Here he writes about technology, Doritos, a Capella choirs, the egotism of memoir and so much other ephemera. He's getting four stars instead of five maybe because of my own refusal to accept such "temporary" writing of my own genre. This book, along with Tree of Codes is an ar Oh Ander... Ander Monson is doing stuff with nonfiction that I don't think anyone else is doing. He's experimenting with form (endless parentheticals and footnotes and sidebars and links and asterisks) and subject matter. Here he writes about technology, Doritos, a Capella choirs, the egotism of memoir and so much other ephemera. He's getting four stars instead of five maybe because of my own refusal to accept such "temporary" writing of my own genre. This book, along with Tree of Codes is an argument FOR physical books, although some of Monson's essays originally appeared online... But the tone of the essays is at times imbalanced between gravitas and throwaway. It defies classification; the very title includes "Not a Memoir." Neither lyrical or narrative, it's still engaging as all get out but maybe still thinks too highly of itself. Regardless, I feel like Monson's nonfiction is of the future-- and something I want to emulate.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    The weird typography makes me think of the NYT article I just read about how reading/studying text in a difficult-to-read typography aids in memory-retrieval of the material. David Shields; David Foster Wallace; McSweeney's Believer; pop culture. From the first (and best) essay in the collection, on the popularity of memoir-writing: I still don't want to read what most people have to say about themselves if it's just to tell their story. I want it to be art, meaning that I want it transformed, j The weird typography makes me think of the NYT article I just read about how reading/studying text in a difficult-to-read typography aids in memory-retrieval of the material. David Shields; David Foster Wallace; McSweeney's Believer; pop culture. From the first (and best) essay in the collection, on the popularity of memoir-writing: I still don't want to read what most people have to say about themselves if it's just to tell their story. I want it to be art, meaning that I want it transformed, juxtaposed, collaged -- worked on like metal sculpture, each sentence hammered, gleaming, honed. [...] telling is performing, even if it seems effortless. With years of reflection on that story and how it can be shaped as prose [...] given the endless possibilities of the sentence on the page, I expect to see a little fucking craft.

  17. 4 out of 5

    BeckyT

    Vanishing Point has excellent cultural insights, especially about what can be done to stretch the creative nonfiction genre and redeem the solipsistic tendencies of memoir. Monson's voice is witty and his subject matter unexpected. He is following David Foster Wallace's path--there is even a brief reflection on Wallace's death in the closing essay--but even though the postmodern subversion/expansion of text was similar, I didn't feel I was reading the same old thing. There were a few times, espe Vanishing Point has excellent cultural insights, especially about what can be done to stretch the creative nonfiction genre and redeem the solipsistic tendencies of memoir. Monson's voice is witty and his subject matter unexpected. He is following David Foster Wallace's path--there is even a brief reflection on Wallace's death in the closing essay--but even though the postmodern subversion/expansion of text was similar, I didn't feel I was reading the same old thing. There were a few times, especially reading his Doritos essay, when I laughed aloud--"Voir Dire" and the last few essays are the best.

  18. 5 out of 5

    katie van sleen

    Alright, Ander Monson is a smart guy, but I just can't get past his egotistical tendencies. I just couldn't handle it. Maybe I'll try a little harder. Don't get me wrong, there were parts about this book that I really enjoyed! I loved reading some of the darker parts, about vanishing, about rolling the car into the water. And I tend to love jumpy plot lines. I just couldn't deal with his self-pity any more. Alright, Ander Monson is a smart guy, but I just can't get past his egotistical tendencies. I just couldn't handle it. Maybe I'll try a little harder. Don't get me wrong, there were parts about this book that I really enjoyed! I loved reading some of the darker parts, about vanishing, about rolling the car into the water. And I tend to love jumpy plot lines. I just couldn't deal with his self-pity any more.

  19. 4 out of 5

    AnnMarie

    Undecided about this book. The concept is so cool and there is an entire chapter about Doritos and their different flavors. I can honor trying to be different but the parts that aren't funny aren't worth reading. Great concept, but maybe not a great story. Each chapter seems to stand alone as a small snack but all together it kind of bored me. I did like the concept of connecting the book to a website. Undecided about this book. The concept is so cool and there is an entire chapter about Doritos and their different flavors. I can honor trying to be different but the parts that aren't funny aren't worth reading. Great concept, but maybe not a great story. Each chapter seems to stand alone as a small snack but all together it kind of bored me. I did like the concept of connecting the book to a website.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Stanton

    I'm calling this done, even though I didn't finish all of each essay. This is a collection of essays, musings, wanderings from the sometimes brilliant mind of Ander Monson. He digs down to find fascinating little research-ey bits about ordinary things that turn out to be pleasantly surprising, and his commentary on same is usually insightful, but on some occasions, the mental gymnastics are not all that interesting and somewhat self-indulgent. Still a worthwhile read. I'm calling this done, even though I didn't finish all of each essay. This is a collection of essays, musings, wanderings from the sometimes brilliant mind of Ander Monson. He digs down to find fascinating little research-ey bits about ordinary things that turn out to be pleasantly surprising, and his commentary on same is usually insightful, but on some occasions, the mental gymnastics are not all that interesting and somewhat self-indulgent. Still a worthwhile read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Martin Cerjan

    Where are we now? An interesting look at culture through the lens of literary criticism--or whatever! A memoir, certainly, but not a memoir in the traditional sense. What may be nonfiction that passes for better writing than most fiction. I love the way everything gets mashed up. Genre bending. I read this after reading about it in Reality Hunger.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Josh Fish

    Ander Monson is lucky as his subject is memoir itself and writing itself which allows him to be very playful and call attention to language in his prose in a way that is not distracting. There is an accompanying website with further essays that one can "link" to by searching tagged words in the book itself. Ander Monson is lucky as his subject is memoir itself and writing itself which allows him to be very playful and call attention to language in his prose in a way that is not distracting. There is an accompanying website with further essays that one can "link" to by searching tagged words in the book itself.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I have been a fan on Ander Monson for a long time. This is his second book of essays, and while my favorite of his essays are still in his other book, this once achieves something greater, over all, then his other book did. A very enjoyable read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eric Susak

    I think I may have to read this book again to give it a proper review, to see the difference between I's and their tastes and understandings. It's an evolving text that I don't think I'll ever be able to consume (because it's connected with his website). I think I may have to read this book again to give it a proper review, to see the difference between I's and their tastes and understandings. It's an evolving text that I don't think I'll ever be able to consume (because it's connected with his website).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emma Bolden

    I finished this book infinity ago but forgot to add it for some reason. It's a remarkable book, a muscular, gymnastic romp through the ways in which our digital world and real world collide -- and the question of whether or not there's a difference. I finished this book infinity ago but forgot to add it for some reason. It's a remarkable book, a muscular, gymnastic romp through the ways in which our digital world and real world collide -- and the question of whether or not there's a difference.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    "Reading is not a passive act; we are simulating another. Anyone who reads a lot knows this already. We try on selves, run simulation programs, enter into magic. The act should not be treated lightly." p. 28 "Reading is not a passive act; we are simulating another. Anyone who reads a lot knows this already. We try on selves, run simulation programs, enter into magic. The act should not be treated lightly." p. 28

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    loved the introduction but by the third essay decided I needed to set it down for awhile. I love his stuff but this one isn't capturing me for some reason...at least not at this point. loved the introduction but by the third essay decided I needed to set it down for awhile. I love his stuff but this one isn't capturing me for some reason...at least not at this point.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Is "nonfiction" really truthful??? Is "nonfiction" really truthful???

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    Not my style of reading, but I'm sure there are some people who would enjoy this style of writing. Not my style of reading, but I'm sure there are some people who would enjoy this style of writing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    Couldn't finish. Felt the book was more flash than substance and the textual interplay was too reminiscent of Gass, Lethem, etc. Couldn't finish. Felt the book was more flash than substance and the textual interplay was too reminiscent of Gass, Lethem, etc.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.