"Keep It Real": An enthralling trip to the truth
"Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction" edited by Lee Gutkind Norton, 169 pp., $22 $22.95 Creative nonfiction...
Special to The Seattle Times
"Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction"
edited by Lee Gutkind
Norton, 169 pp., $22.95
Creative nonfiction is a broad category of writing that uses "literary craft in presenting nonfiction," and while fabrication crosses the line — James Frey being only the most recent example — the genre allows considerable imaginative leeway and innovation.
In "Keep It Real," editor Lee Gutkind and a passel of experienced nonfiction writers have teamed up to write a stimulating and informative collection of short, digestible chapters on the marvels and pitfalls of creative nonfiction.
The genre has been around for a long time, but entered its modern heyday with the "New Journalism" of the 1960s and '70s — Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson were the chief practitioners — and includes the current proliferation and popularity of memoirs. Straightforward nonfiction such as history, journalism and the standard essay evolved into writing that was more personal, subjective and experimental.
The organizational approach of "Keep It Real" — chapters on topics arranged alphabetically — seems haphazard at first, but the juxtaposition of practical advice and less-tangible aspects of the craft make for a pleasing eclecticism. A chapter called Compression is followed by Defamation and Libel; The Lyric Essay follows Legal Responsibilities of Publishers. There are fascinating disquisitions on the nature of memory and truth.
Although this is not a "how to" book, the authors define and describe the genre with specificity and good examples, generating plenty of options and approaches. One that caught my eye: the "lyric I" point of view and the use of the "fragmented braided essay form or the collage essay, where white space implies silence and meaning is created through oblique connections of images and metaphors rather than through a straightforward narrative story."
"Keep It Real" contains many more nuggets and demonstrates that nonfiction can be no less elastic or unfettered than fiction.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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