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Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir [Paperback]

Ander Monson

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe this isn't the book, but he has potential. 10 July 2011
By quinceyquick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There seems to be this kind of obnoxious movement in contemporary fiction heralded by people like Tao Lin and Noah Cicero, and Ander Monson belongs in this neat little box. The box contains work that I'm pretty sure is largely going to mean nothing in the next decade, works that take after Catcher in the Rye and try to explore a kind of hyper-nihilist world crossed with drug use or alcohol abuse or, more recently, how the internet messes with us. It's very difficult to do this kind of writing right (if it can be done right at all), and the problem is that Ander Monson isn't there yet.

Which isn't to say that he'll never be there. The voice is interesting and he goes for interesting angles, the biggest quirk (that NY Times apparently was all excited about) being how he uses daggers (those little plus signs) throughout the book, where, when the reader finds a dagger, s/he is supposed to go to the book's website and type in the word and is supposed to get an even more elaborate footnote that seems to add an extra dimension to the story. If employed properly, the dagger should introduce the novel to the internet. However, it seems more gimmicky. It would be more fitting or interesting if these daggers led to Youtube clips or mp3 files, but instead they just lead to more text. There is really no reason why the daggers could not have just been endnotes.

The book is a series of essays that are about one thing, but that take really long digressions into the nature of the memoir, theorizing on its importance, its appeal, its relevance to 21st century American life, which sounds interesting. And it is, except that the philosophizing never quite feels like it's getting anywhere. The meta-non-fictive element comes across too strong. The narrator kind of criticizes memoirs and then turns around and writes exactly the kind of memoir he's criticizing, except instead of coming off as profound, it comes across as cute.

It's a good shot, and I'll wait for him to come out with something mind-blowing. And I do encourage people to check this book out, because it's new and interesting. But I have a hard time recommending this one.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating exploration of autobiographical writing 8 Jun 2010
By David Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In one of the opening essays of his autobiographical collection _Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir_, Ander Monson, reflecting on the memoir as a genre, writes, "Very occasionally these individual stories are so striking, conscious, and/or artful that they create a heightened interest: they compel us, they cast that spell over our nighttime hours" (15). Monson's book is likely to do just that for the reader. In essay after essay, he not only explores his own experiences but interrogates the form of the personal essay itself, the "blurred boundaries" (to borrow a phrase from film theorist Bill Nichols) between _non-_ and _fiction_. He strikes a balance between self-aware genre exploration and more open, familiar first-person address, so that one never feels left out of the conversation, even as Monson experiments. Some of these essays originally appeared individually, but I was struck by how coherently they work in the order they're presented, so that unlikely motifs occur--who would have guessed that the world's largest ball of paint could accrue so many meanings (like the object itself, an effect not lost on Monson)? This is a beautiful book, and I would encourage readers interested in the memoir form to read it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distinctive and Interesting 14 April 2011
By Robert M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ander Monson's Vanishing Point is a very interesting work. A collection of essays, and, as the subtitle would suggest, it is not a memoir. Though then, one would have to wonder what exactly this work actually is. Put simply, it doesn't care. It just is.

Monson explores the concepts of self and the nature of truth, amongst a plethora of other subjects, in his book. These essays are more series of observations about the world more than anything else.

The element that most distinguishes this book from anything else is its print style. It is as much a visual work as it is a literary one. The presentation varies from chapter to chapter, creating a fluid and different look for each section, and the book in general. There are drawings, photos, graphs, snippets, graphics, and other visuals scattered throughout. No two chapters look the same. One has columns that resemble those in newspapers. Another has extremely thin margins, to the point that the text is slightly chopped on the sides, but still easily readable. I have never seen such techniques used deliberately in a work such as this. It certainly distinctive, grabs your attentions, and piques your curiosity.

One of the themes of this book is the nature of the self. If this book had a symbol, it would easily be the asterisk (*). Each chapter begins with one, and sections are separated by them. Here, it neither random nor meaningless.

Monson has an enjoyable writing style. Throughout the text, his sense of humor is easily apparent, and makes the book very readable. Funny asides and anecdotes abound. A very good and interesting read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, but thought-provoking 9 Dec 2010
By Eric Kroczek - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Vanishing Point is a truly outrageous book, unlike anything I've read before, with the possible exception of David Shields' Reality Hunger (Shields wrote an excellent review of Monson's book for the NYT). Monson fuses quirky essays about jury duty, Gerald Ford's funeral, Doritos, role-playing games, remodeling his old house, crafting literary broadsides, and the art of watching YouTube videos unironically with "assembloirs"--collages of bits of other peoples' memoirs--and meditations on solipsism and the all-pervasive "I" of memoir writers to produce a thought-provoking, if sometimes messy, treatise on the subjective in art, media, and life.
4.0 out of 5 stars Dots=Connected 13 April 2011
By KSik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ander Monson's book, Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir, is an awesome example of the genre of creative non-fiction. It is a difficult genre to write well, and one that is highly criticized for its elements of non-non-fiction. Or fiction. Whether or not his un-memoir retained fictive elements, Monson kept my attention on him at all times. His stories about small, and seemingly insignificant situations and life activities help the reader get a feel for him, for the way he things, for the way he views the world. He finds significance in small things with a quick eye and a wittier tongue. The book is also very aesthetic, and is quite fun to read with the web page he has created just for the book. It is probably one of the most interactive books of creative non-fiction I have ever read. Monson himself even says, "But even fiction is about something. Something started it. Something animates it. There is a text and a subtext. The book is about memoir, and it's about me, and it's about you, because it's about us." It seems to me that he created the book to document human experience--whether it be mundane, quirky, uninteresting, irrelevant, profound, or shocking. It is not chronological, nor does it seem to follow any sort of particular order; however, after reading the book, one feels a sense of wholeness and completeness. I guess that was the point for Monson, as he said about the book, "The job of the nonfiction writer is to start with everything and cut away until all that's left are dots and dots and dots, and then to connect them." Well if that is the job of the non-fiction writer, Monson hit it out of the ball park. The remnant dots of everything are connected; but not only are the dots connected-- they are humorous, relatable, and hard to put down. Awesome, awesome book.
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