Genre as a Vessel for Presence

Fiction and nonfiction form poles at either end of a long continuum, and our work can slide fluidly along it. Here’s how it feels.  A voice begins to speak inside your head. Sometimes it talks about things that have actually happened to you; sometimes it conjures imagined creatures uttering strange things. Sometimes it sounds like your own voice; sometimes it’s the voice of a stranger. The compulsion to pick up a pen is equal in both cases.   I do fairly extensive research for both genres, and the political claims I stake about the world, whether in fiction or nonfiction, are often largely similar. The processes of writing and revising—seeking the most accurate language to depict what is seen in the mind (whether memory or invention); shaping the narrative for impact, drama and silence; listening for and enhancing the sonic effects of each line—are similar for me whether I write fiction or nonfiction.  Only the final texts bear different ontological weights, different epistemological weights. One, published as nonfiction, must demonstrate careful fidelity to the known and socially sharable facts (yet we know too well the slipperiness of those). One, published as fiction, enjoys the perfect freedom of invention—but if I … Continue reading Genre as a Vessel for Presence