Because I Can Never Talk Enough About Creative Nonfiction
Anyone who follows Creative Nonfiction is all too familiar with the “truth is relative” debate. While the fallibility of memory becomes more exposed every day, through both research and the personal experience of aging, authors must tread lightly when labeling their work Nonfiction or Memoir. It seems to me that the best Creative Nonfiction out there is working to move in a different direction entirely. I think one of the prime examples of this is Ander Monson, and his recent book of essays Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir.
For me, the full title of this book says everything about the direction many exploratory Creative Nonfiction writers are trying to go: Not a Memoir. In a market flooded with memoirs and a cultural obsession with absolute accuracy, there’s an interesting emergence of self-consciousness in writing. Most Creative Nonfiction works now contain the disclaimer, “this is what I remember” steering away from a declaration of objective truth.
Vanishing Point is a collection of essays that deal with everything from thrill-seeking grasshoppers, to Dungeons and Dragons, to the inescapable “I” that drives Creative Nonfiction. Each essay is about his exploration of the topic and, unavoidably, how that topic relates to him, the “I” of the essays. His book is also stepping outside the bounds of print and contains an interactive element. Throughout the essays certain words are marked with dagger images. If you go to Monson’s website, otherelectricities.com/vp and type in the dagger-marked word, there is a separate treatise on the individual word complete with images, links, and entirely new mini-essays. If his writing style wasn’t pushing the boundaries of Creative Nonfiction already, this web extension of his work highlights Monson’s originality and experimentation.
As a Creative Nonfiction writer myself, I am frequently asked to define the genre I claim as my own, and I still struggle to do so. But now, I find myself pointing to this book of essays. There is something truly and obviously “creative,” for lack of a better term, about these essays; they are crafted with the same care and attention as good fiction, and they are a labor of love that takes time.
Not only are Monson’s essays the type of Creative Nonfiction I hope to see more of in the future, but Monson himself takes a stab at defining Creative Nonfiction. His definition spans a few pages, but eventually he offers a succinct paraphrase that I for one intend to adopt as my own description: “I want it to be art. . . . given the endless possibilities of the sentence on the page, I expect to see a little fucking craft.”
Me too Ander, me too.
Caryn Wille recently moved to Minneapolis from Chicago to explore the world of publishing and graphic design. Caryn is a new member of the Paper Darts staff helping with graphic design and marketing.