Friday, November 09, 2012

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us

Why read books? To learn, yes. But also to escape the messiness of life, to establish a sense of superiority, to distract ourselves from ourselves... Cold river 101

In the first section of the anthology, “The Flash Nonfiction Form,” Bret Lott notes, “There ought to be an explosion of recognition, a burst of self-awareness that gives my reader the understanding that these few words she’s read have had hidden within them a realm far larger than any she could have imagined.” 
Bret’s definition is really a definition of all excellent art. A painting is taken in through the eyes, but can magically bloom, in the viewer’s brain, into words and sounds and aroma. A ballet is just movement of a dancer’s arms and legs and torso but can be translated, in our minds, into a universe of feelings and associations. Brief nonfiction prose tells a story, provides information, but that is only the surface of what is possible. The author is trying to create, though language, image, metaphor, the possibility for that “burst of self-awareness” that the term “flash” implies. It doesn’t just go by in a flash: it illuminates, like a flash gun. Recently, the journal TriQuarterly (re)published the anonymous essay The Facts of the Matter.  The piece troubles many of the conventions of creative nonfiction–including the obligation to be factual–in service of the argument for factualness in nonfiction Matters of fact

The Story of America: Essays on Origins
ASKED ABOUT HER busy career, Harvard professor and frequent New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore recently said, “Either you’re going to run out of breath or you’re going to trip.” (She also has a family and has written six books.) In her latest offering, The Story of America, a collection of essays mostly published in The New Yorker, the history professor has tripped.  Lepore started writing for The New Yorker in 2005 and since then has filed 86 pieces—blogs Wonder Woman

Media Dragon stared in disbelief the first time a straw rose up from my can of soda and hung out over the table, barely arrested by burrs in the underside of the metal opening. I was holding a slice of pizza in one hand, folded in a three-finger grip so that it wouldn't flop and pour cheese-grease on the paper plate, and a paperback in a similar grip in the other hand—what was I supposed to do? The whole point of straws, I had thought, was that you did not have to set down the slice of pizza to suck a dose of Coke while reading a paperback ... How Authors Write