1 Characteristics and definition 2 Ethics and accuracy 3 Literary criticism 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links
7.1 Audio/video links
Characteristics and definition
For a text to be considered creative nonfiction, it must be factually
accurate, and written with attention to literary style and technique.
"Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to
communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a
way that reads like fiction." Forms within this genre include
biography, autobiography, memoir, diary, travel writing, food writing,
literary journalism, chronicle, personal essays and other hybridized
essays. According to Vivian Gornick, "A memoir is a tale taken from
life—that is, from actual, not imagined, occurrences—related by a
first-person narrator who is undeniably the writer. Beyond these bare
requirements it has the same responsibility as the novel or the short
story: to shape a piece of experience so that it moves from a tale of
private interest to one with meaning for the disinterested reader."
Critic Chris Anderson really claims that the genre can be understood
best by splitting it into two subcategories—the personal essay and
the journalistic essay—but the genre is currently defined by its
lack of established conventions.
Literary critic Barbara Lounsberry—in her book, The Art of
Fact—suggests four constitutive characteristics of the genre, the
first of which is "Documentable subject matter chosen from the real
world as opposed to 'invented' from the writer's mind". By this,
she means that the topics and events discussed in the text verifiably
exist in the natural world. The second characteristic is "Exhaustive
research," which she claims allows writers "novel perspectives on
their subjects" and "also permits them to establish the credibility of
their narratives through verifiable references in their texts". The
third characteristic that Lounsberry claims is crucial in defining the
genre is "The scene". She stresses the importance of describing and
revivifying the context of events in contrast to the typical
journalistic style of objective reportage. The fourth and final
feature she suggests is "Fine writing: a literary prose style".
"Verifiable subject matter and exhaustive research guarantee the
nonfiction side of literary nonfiction; the narrative form and
structure disclose the writer's artistry; and finally, its polished
language reveals that the goal all along has been literature."
In 1998, Swiss writer and journalist Daniel Ganzfried revealed that
Binjamin Wilkomirski's memoir Fragments: Memories of a Wartime
Childhood detailing his experiences as a child survivor of the
Holocaust, contained factual inaccuracies.
James Frey controversy hit in 2006, when
The Smoking Gun website
revealed that Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces, contained
experiences that turned out to be fabrications.
The New York Times
Although there have been instances of traditional and literary
journalists falsifying their stories, the ethics applied to creative
nonfiction are the same as those that apply to journalism. The truth
is meant to be upheld, just told in a literary fashion. Essayist John
D'Agata explores the issue in his 2012 book The Lifespan of a Fact. It
examines the relationship between truth and accuracy, and whether it
is appropriate for a writer to substitute one for the other. He and
fact-checker Jim Fingal undergo an intense debate about the boundaries
of creative nonfiction, or "literary nonfiction".
There is very little published literary criticism of creative
nonfiction works, despite the fact that the genre is often published
in respected publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair,
Harper's, and Esquire. A handful of the most widely recognized
writers in the genre such as Robert Caro, Gay Talese, Joseph Mitchell,
Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, Joan Didion, John Perkins, Ryszard
"If, these four features delimit an important art form of our time, a discourse grounded in fact but artful in execution that might be called literary nonfiction, what is needed is serious critical attention of all kinds to this work: formal criticism (both Russian formalism and New Criticism), historical, biographical, cultural, structuralist and deconstructionist, reader-response criticism and feminist (criticism)."
" Nonfiction is no longer the bastard child, the second class citizen; literature is no longer reified, mystified, unavailable. This is the contribution that poststructuralist theory has to make to an understanding of literary nonfiction, since poststructuralist theorists are primarily concerned with how we make meaning and secure authority for claims in meaning of language."
Docufiction Documentary film Ethnofiction Nonfiction novel Roman à clef
^ Gutkind, Lee (2007). The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 1. New York:
W. W. Norton. pp. xi. ISBN 0-393-33003-6.
^ Anderson, page ix.
^ a b Lounsberry, Barbara (1990). The art of fact: contemporary
artists of nonfiction. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. xiii.
^ Lounsberry, page xiii-xiv
^ Lounsberry, page xiv-xv
^ Lounsberry, page xv
^ Johnson, Fenton (1 June 1997). Geography of the Heart. Scribner.
^ Holman, Virginia (February 25, 2003). Rescuing Patty Hearst:
Memories From a Decade Gone Mad (1st ed.). Simon & Schuster.
^ McKay, Sinclair (28 April 2002). "Life is Sweets". The Telegraph.
^ McGrath, Melanie (2009). Hopping. 4th Estate. pp. xiv–xv.
^ Barrett and Calvi, Duncan and Nuala (2012). The Sugar Girls.
Collins. pp. 337–338. ISBN 978-0-00-744847-0.
^ "Creative Nonfiction, Issue. 38, Spring 2010": 7–13.
^ Daniel Ganzfried, translated from the German by Katherine Quimby
Johnson. "Die Geliehene Holocaust-Biographie (The Purloined Holocaust
Biography)". Die Weltwoche. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
^ Wyatt, Edward (2006-01-10). "Best-Selling
Further reading Chronological order of publication (oldest first)
Johnson, E. L.; Wolfe (1975). The New Journalism. London: Pan Books.
Gutkind, Lee (1997). The Art of Creative Nonfiction:
Nonfiction a magazine and resource devoted to the creative
Shadowbox Magazine a binannual journal of creative nonfiction
Poets & Writers a nonprofit literary organization serving poets,
fiction and creative nonfiction writers
Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction (Canada)
What is creative non-fiction? Phil Druker, University of Idaho
Nonfiction resources for Australian writers
Nonfiction Bibliography Joan Clingan, Prescott College
UC Irvine Literary
Audio CSPAN – Interview with Lee Gutkind gives a definition of the genre Audio CSPAN – Interview with Lee Gutkind gives examples of authors who write in the genre
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