Creative nonfiction is no oxymoron. Shorthand for an exciting genre that encompasses the hard-hitting honesty of journalism and the dramatic techniques that make fiction so compelling, creative nonfiction is just that: gripping stories that just happen to be true. As Brian Doyle defines it in this volume, creative nonfiction is “true stories about people and the world… small true odd interesting unusual voice-laden funny poignant detailed musical sweet sad stories.” Good, old-fashioned reporting plus insight, story, reflection… and wisdom. That’s creative nonfiction.
In Fact offers much more than twenty-five of these stories: it offers twenty-five of the best. Culled from the 300 pieces published in the journal Creative Nonfiction over the past ten years, themselves chosen from over 10,000 manuscripts, the stories reprinted in In Fact showcase the magnificent possibilities of this emergent genre in pieces by the famous, and those surely destined to be so. Not only that, each author has included a reflection on the process of composing the particular piece included valuable advice for those hoping to find their own writing voice. Annie Dillard’s sassy introduction, “Notes for Young Writers,” sets the tone for the whole volume. Over and over again, she and the other contributors stress the importance of reading good work, as well as writing it, and the aspiring poet, novelist, journalist, essayist, creative nonfiction writer—or simply curious reader who relishes good writing—could do no better than to begin with In Fact.
The questions probed here are questions that touch us all: identity, race, love, memory, truth. Only through this genre can you get so close to what it feels like to be a feminist, 115-pound woman riding a 600-pound motorcycle through Mormon country to rediscover her family and herself, as Jana Richman reveals to us in “Why I Ride.” Richard Rodriguez questions the nature of race and authorial voice. The battered face of 14-year-old Emmett Till, murdered in 1955 for talking slang to a white woman, haunts more than one writer in this volume. Francine Prose explores the immutability—and permeability—of culture, and Diane Ackerman looks at the foundations of language itself.
Part writing-manual, part prose anthology, In Fact is not a book simply to be read, but to be re-read, thumbed over, annotated, dog-eared and lent to friends and family or jealously guarded on one’s bookshelf, right above the writing desk.
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John Edgar Wideman
Terry Tempest Williams
Madison Smartt Bell
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Gerald N. Callahan
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