Book Review: All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost – Lan Samantha Chang

Title: All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost
Author: Lan Samantha Chang
ISBN: 9780393063066
Pages: 208
Release Date: September 27, 2010
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Roman, Bernard, and Lucy are all students in a class taught by Miranda Sturgis, an inspiring yet terrifying professor of poetry.  Roman is fascinated by Miranda because of her rejection of his poetry, while Lucy is the only one who stands up for Roman’s work when Miranda slices it open in class. Bernard is Roman’s best friend, equally fascinated by Miranda, yet consumed with his own work.  Each of these students will be affected by this one class forever as they try to find success and find their lives intertwined.

Review:

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost is a book that brings a lot of questions about the teaching of the writing craft to the forefront.  Is writing even something that can be taught?  If it is, what is the best method to do so?  As Miranda rejects her class’s poems, skewers them in front of everyone, her students are inspired to work harder and to please her.  But at what point will they give up and decide that she isn’t worth the effort?  Is her teaching style helping or hindering her students?

Chang’s writing is beautiful and elegant, telling the story of these four people.  She writes them with such care, the reader can’t help but be interested in them.  Some of the characters seem a little underdeveloped, but it is Roman, arguably the main character, who really leaps off the page.  The reader can taste his bitterness, can sense his anger.  He is the star of this novel as he struggles for recognition.  Once he finds it, Roman realizes that it isn’t as fulfilling as he’d hoped.

This is a slip of a novel, but there is a lot to think about within its pages.  There are many themes to consider, including the query of what make a person accomplished.  Is it writing books and books and winning awards, but not really feeling any kind of contentment and constantly needing to prove yourself, or is it writing just one masterpiece, one thing you are truly proud of but that no one will ever see?  Chang doesn’t provide an easy answer for this question, but she does leave the reader thinking about its ramifications.

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost is an interesting novel that left me pondering long after I’d read the last page.  Considering the subject matter, it’s a relatively easy read and flows incredibly well, thanks to the author’s wonderful prose.  Chang is a talented writer, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

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Comments

  1. Sounds like a really fascinating book! My husband rarely reads modern lit but I’m going to pass your review along to him because I think this is something he might really enjoy.

  2. Sounds like a really fascinating book! My husband rarely reads modern lit but I’m going to pass your review along to him because I think this is something he might really enjoy.

  3. This does sound interesting. It reminds me a little bit of The Secret History in terms of the plot motivations, and as that was a favorite of mine, I might think about trying this one as well. I am glad that you liked it and that it gave you a lot to think about! Great review!

  4. This does sound interesting. It reminds me a little bit of The Secret History in terms of the plot motivations, and as that was a favorite of mine, I might think about trying this one as well. I am glad that you liked it and that it gave you a lot to think about! Great review!

  5. Enjoyed your review! I think I’d really like this book.

  6. Enjoyed your review! I think I’d really like this book.

  7. I got this one from Library Thing too and am looking forward to it. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it and hope I will too!

  8. I got this one from Library Thing too and am looking forward to it. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it and hope I will too!

  9. This sounds like it would give you a lot to think about. I think there is definitely a talent involved in being a great writer, but the craft can certainly be honed with classes. The relationships in the book sound good too.

  10. This sounds like it would give you a lot to think about. I think there is definitely a talent involved in being a great writer, but the craft can certainly be honed with classes. The relationships in the book sound good too.

  11. Having graduated from a creative writing program in college, I’m very intrigued by this one! My poetry and writing professors were so tough and critical, and it definitely raised many questions… what is art? How can you critique it? How can you judge it — and can you really teach it?

    I’ll look for this one!

  12. Having graduated from a creative writing program in college, I’m very intrigued by this one! My poetry and writing professors were so tough and critical, and it definitely raised many questions… what is art? How can you critique it? How can you judge it — and can you really teach it?

    I’ll look for this one!

  13. I passed on this at the library the other day – perhaps I should reconsider…seems like it would fit with The Old School and The Small Room – I seem to be on an academic road.

    Thanks for the review.

    PB

  14. I passed on this at the library the other day – perhaps I should reconsider…seems like it would fit with The Old School and The Small Room – I seem to be on an academic road.

    Thanks for the review.

    PB

  15. Richard Herman says:

    I was attracted to the ideas presented in this work and without knowing the author recognized the richness of her metaphors and word choices. The ideas raised by the book are fascinating.

    However, I couldn’t help but notice her overuse of adverbs, in particular unnecessary explanations telling the reader exactly what a character was thinking. Any reader worth his/her salt should be able to figure those things out on his/her own. I am sure she doesn’t teach this style of creative writing. I got the feeling the book was rushed to press without enough editing. One glaring mistake; Lucy’s son was hit in his pitching hand by a baseball. The author wrote that he broke his tibia. The tibia is a leg bone. While I don’t expect the Ms. Chang to know her anatomy the editor certainly should have caught this and many other stylistic errors. Why should the reader settle for mediocrity when this novel had the potential for greatness?
    Richard Herman

  16. Richard Herman says:

    I was attracted to the ideas presented in this work and without knowing the author recognized the richness of her metaphors and word choices. The ideas raised by the book are fascinating.

    However, I couldn’t help but notice her overuse of adverbs, in particular unnecessary explanations telling the reader exactly what a character was thinking. Any reader worth his/her salt should be able to figure those things out on his/her own. I am sure she doesn’t teach this style of creative writing. I got the feeling the book was rushed to press without enough editing. One glaring mistake; Lucy’s son was hit in his pitching hand by a baseball. The author wrote that he broke his tibia. The tibia is a leg bone. While I don’t expect the Ms. Chang to know her anatomy the editor certainly should have caught this and many other stylistic errors. Why should the reader settle for mediocrity when this novel had the potential for greatness?
    Richard Herman

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