Firsthand: How I Solved a Literary Mystery and Learned to Play Kickass Tennis while Coming to Grips with the Disorder of Things (Writers On Writing) (Paperback)

Firsthand: How I Solved a Literary Mystery and Learned to Play Kickass Tennis while Coming to Grips with the Disorder of Things (Writers On Writing) By Keith Gandal Cover Image

Firsthand: How I Solved a Literary Mystery and Learned to Play Kickass Tennis while Coming to Grips with the Disorder of Things (Writers On Writing) (Paperback)

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Firsthand is an exploration—both suspenseful and comic—of the creative process in research writing. The book takes the reader through the ins and outs of a specific research journey, from combing through libraries and archives to the intellectual challenges involved with processing information that contradicts established ideas. More fundamentally, it addresses the somewhat mysterious portion of the intellectual process: the creative and serendipitous aspects involved in arriving at a fruitful research question in the first place.
 
Keith Gandal combines this scholarly detective story with a comic personal narrative about how a midlife crisis accidentally sent him on a journey to write a research monograph that many in his profession—including at times himself—were dubious about. While researching how Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner faced their forgotten crises of masculinity, Gandal discovers that his own crisis is instrumental to his creative process. Incorporating stories from Gandal’s comic romp through the hyper-competitive world of middle-aged men’s tennis, adopting pitbulls, and discussing Michel Foucault, Firsthand gives readers an inside look at how to acquire accurate knowledge—about the world, about history, and about oneself.
Keith Gandal is Professor of English with a Joint Appointment in American Studies and Creative Writing at The City College of New York. 
Product Details ISBN: 9780472056958
ISBN-10: 0472056956
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication Date: July 23rd, 2024
Pages: 300
Language: English
Series: Writers On Writing
“Gandal vividly captures the emotions he experienced during a difficult research and writing project. An excellent read full of humor and intellectual and emotional depth. Anyone who is a writer or a want-to-be writer will appreciate this book.”
— Nancy Gentile Ford, author of Americans All! Foreign-born Soldiers in World War I

“This is a remarkable book. If the reader can survive having their consciousness deconstructed in the first few chapters, then they can settle in to enjoy every word. Truly original. The persona of the narrator resonates with an American tradition of the paranoid, ironic, self-reflexive voice. Is this academic memoir, detective fiction, cultural history, or comic novel? Actually it is all of these.”
— Gavin Jones, author of Reclaiming John Steinbeck: Writing for the Future of Humanity

“A fascinating ‘whodunit’ by a writer tracking other writers―and himself―through the labyrinth of the writing life, Firsthand gives us an entirely new, continually surprising perspective on the scholar’s vocation.”
— Eric Sundquist, author of Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America

“If you can only read one book this season about Michel Foucault, the Lost Generation writers, the mobilization of American troops during World War I, the mid-life crisis of a male academic, getting new pets, and the mendacious world of amateur tennis, make this the one.  Keith Gandal’s memoir traces his own journey to make the subtle but necessary psychic shifts on the road to uncovering truths hidden in plain sight—about other writers, scholars and himself.  It is all told in an engaging, headlong pace that reaches a memorable climax. I couldn’t put it down.”
— Daniel Andries, Senior Producer, WTTW