I always tell people to evaluate essays and books—theirs and others’—with a double perspective, through the eyes of a reader and the eyes of a writer. Similarly architects or engineers studying a building or a bridge will not only see what the edifice looks like, as would any commuter or pedestrian, but also visualize the blueprint of the structure—how it was put together. Writers must not only read the lines they have written and assess meaning and importance as would any reader, but also probe between the lines to visualize and understand what they (and other writers) have done to make it work.
This issue features essays that, among other things, take us between the lines—writers writing about writing—in a variety of creative and informative contexts. Novelist Bret Lott speaks out “Against Technique,” while Canadian journalist David Hayes analyzes the “inner monologue” (“Penetrating Thoughts”), an often-debated creative nonfiction technique and tool. The Hayes essay, along with Michael Rosenwald’s report of his recent encounter with Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker writer John McPhee (“Travels with John McPhee”), are located in the back of the issue in a section of the same name, “Between the Lines.” This represents a new Creative Nonfiction feature—a section that goes between the lines and behind the scenes of the genre, providing insight into technique, approach, ethics and the professional and personal decisions writers and readers confront in their day-to-day lives.
But this entire issue is a study of the special ways in which subjects can be delineated and discussed. A former writer for the Village Voice, Laurie Stone, captures the contradictions and necessities of a writer’s life (“Report From the Food Chain”), while the poet Molly Peacock illuminates the concept of privacy in teaching and writing and life. And probing between the lines in an infrequently explored direction, David Rompf (“Photographic Memory”) and Elena Passarello (“Ramalamadingdong”) capture the special ways words and images and lyrics and music embrace one another. Other writers in this issue probe writing and the ironies of work and life in slightly different directions. Stephen Benz works on “The Grounds Crew” of a university, Scott Belan on a tree farm (“Just Add Water”), and Andy Couturier is “Selling Indulgence in Corporate Japan.”
Going even deeper between the lines, we are especially pleased to be publishing Passarello, an actor whose writing is appearing here in a national publication for the first time. This is an event that we vigorously embrace, for it fulfills one of the primary missions of Creative Nonfiction: to not only publish the best and most prominent writers possible, but also to discover and showcase bright new voices in the literary arts.