Some Thoughts on Literary Nonfiction

Such as: there is an outer world.


May 29, 2015

Do you know the site Essay Daily, edited by Ander Monson and Craig Reinbold? It's a valuable platform for conversation about essays and essayists, and a few weeks back Craig asked if I'd like to write something about Crux, the new literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press, for which I serve as series editor. (Essay Daily posts editors-talking-on-editing pieces regularly, and I've been very interested to read what Sven Birkerts at AGNIStephen Corey at The Georgia ReviewStephanie G'Schwind at Colorado Review, and others have had to say about their craft.)

It was an interesting assignment that forced me to try to articulate a bunch of things I've had on my mind, which I hope to return to one day in more detail:  

Signaling, however lightly, inner versus outer reality. I served as an Army frogman and deep-sea diver, and I’m here to report there is a physical world with consequences outside our bone helmets, and it will bite your ass. Dream, fantasy, the imagined, the conjectured—all the richness of inner life—of course are available to literary nonfiction, but they are not often the All. For me the best writing constantly checks itself against that outer world, from personal to political to environmental and back. I also appreciate writers acknowledging encounters with things that other people write and publish too. 

My thanks to Ander and Craig. The rest of my list of things I thought to say can be found here.



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