This anthology, an offshoot of the journal Creative Nonfiction, kicks off an annual series drawing together the best representatives of a fertile (if ill-defined) genre still struggling for recognition. In his introduction, Gutkind tries to clarify the subject, a seeming "contradiction in terms," but the pieces speak for themselves, blending precise research and astute observation with flavorful, fascinating narratives. Carol Smith, a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, contributes an account of "The Cipher in Room 214," a 1996 female suicide found in a downtown Seattle hotel who left behind no clues as to her identity; Eula Biss details powerfully her experience with chronic illness by riffing off the 0-10 scale on which her doctors ask her to rank her pain. Most pieces are first-person, memoir-style accounts-writers include a former stripper, a fatally ill man, a narcoleptic and a prosopagnosic (a woman who can't recognize faces)-but a smattering of profiles include an insightful Poets & Writerspiece by Daniel Nester on notoriously over-creative nonfiction writer James Frey. Happily, Gutkind reaches several steps beyond the literary journal scene-blog excerpts turn up, and a piece on the secret language of hackers (or "h4ck3rs") comes from John McPhee's Princeton University creative nonfiction class-to find a wide range of topics and styles; though some selections are stronger than others, the richness of the "real" makes the anthology work as a cohesive whole. (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Narrative nonfiction at its cutting-edge best from writers at the cusp of recognition and fame.
KLIATT - Daniel LevinsonThis is the second year's collection by "the godfather behind creative narrative nonfiction" (Vanity Fair), and it has the kind of sometimes fascinating, sometimes annoying content you might expect from a field with such loose boundaries. It starts with Gutkind's introduction, where he uses his own life to frame a simple, powerful argument for the value of shared story experience on paperand then argues that the intensity of memory matters more than the truth of what's remembered and that the fiction/nonfiction line shouldn't matter much for such work. He says that reporters cared about what was true and not true in James Frey's controversial work, not readers. Your response to this manifesto is likely to determine how you'll respond to creative nonfiction in general. That said, some of the writing here is searing and terrific. There's a great range of topic and style: straightforward and heart wrenching, inventive and flip, meandering and digressive. Some writers might be familiar (I know Stefan Fatsis from NPR and loved his essay here on his favorite baseball glove), but most won't be. There's some controversial subject matter, mostly treated with reserve and sensitivity: e.g., a short essay on teaching non-English speakers about English expletives, an essay by a former woman soldier about loving guns and women, a portrait of Joy of Sex author Alex Comfort. Each piece comes with an introductory paragraph in which the author explains a key element, and there are useful end-of-the-book sections about the contributors and the publications in which pieces originally appeared. Reviewer: Daniel Levinson
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Write a Review
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >