Slow down, my friend.Consider the strange and wonderful minutiae offered by our world:the ethically appropriate compensation for an egg donation from a fertile woman; a funeral for the "N" word; the story of Gerald R. Ford's funeral, organized by New Order song titles; sodden pages found on an Icelandic beach that could lead to the rediscovery of a successful Victorian author; the epitome of a baseball glove, according to the author/owner and confirmed by Rawlings' glove designer and Cal Ripken Jr., among others.And Facebook.
Creative nonfiction, a transmogrified category if any there is, tells a factual story by means of literary techniques. It's been around since the 1960s, when its first practitioners - Truman Capote, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe and the incorrigible Hunter S. Thompson - blasted through the remove of journalistic reportage.At its best, it is a combination of brash passion and truthful tale-telling, compelling one to read almost anything with delight.
Chosen from more than 500 entries from print and online sources, The Best Creative Nonfiction Volume 2 delivers a thoughtful range of 28 essays with very different voices, fixations and writing styles. There's the terrible splendor of memoir in Patricia Brieschke's "Cracking Open," an account of the emotionally stripped-away year after her son's birth. Or Pagan Kennedy's historical portrait of Dr. Alex Comfort (author of The Joy of Sex), which could be titled "Geeks Get It On." There's Desirae Matherly's examination of test-taking fears, structured as an exam that moves from multiple choice to essay questions, breaking the traditional form of the essay to explore the pressures behind testing.ÊAnd Cleveland Scene's very own James Renner presents the still-unexplained death of Joseph Kupchik as film noir, grounded in the ordinariness of days filled with fast-food joints, missed phone calls and online gambling.
But regardless of subject, these selections delight. They kick ass. Their high caliber of writing and deep-seated curiosity invite us inside the cogitations of another thinker, one who is more gifted than ourselves in recounting the intricacies of thought.
For instance, Donovan Hohn's Moby-Duck: Or, the Synthetic Wilderness of Childhood uses a dumped shipping container full of bath toys to explore the environmental ramifications of plastic, the notion of childhood through history, what a subgroup of scientific beachcombers think about and his own impending fatherhood. This heady mix is augmented with sources as disparate as MSNBC, the Bible, a 1950 Parents magazine, a first-grader's story about Joshua the Mouse and countless interviews with researchers, ship captains and the lady next to him on his flight to Sitka, Alaska.And all of it works together flawlessly.
Which raises the question of who these authors are.Are they, as editor Lee Gutkind claims, outsiders - "folks with other jobs, making time to write between family possibilities and other passions?" Perhaps.ÊBut among the contributors are writers for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Harper's; MFA candidates, professors and teachers; winners of Guggenheim fellowships and the Academy of American Poets Prize.ÊIn the end, it doesn't matter.
As Patrick Madden, another contributor, states, "What I loved to do most was think, without constraint, without pressure, without system.I wanted to be free, an idle spectator, engaging curiosities, examining the quotidian. Essaying is a way of sustaining thought, of finding and exploring and creating connections, and of making sense of life."Here's a chance to indulge in a selection of great storytellers of the real
The Best Creative Nonfiction Volume 2 Edited by Lee Gutkind W.W. Norton & Company, 2008 341 pages