Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rachel Dolezal inspires renewed call for a book-world revolution



Some of my writer-friends are (rightly) irritated that Rachel Dolezal "admitted" to indulging in "creative nonfiction." She lied, damn it. Writers of creative nonfiction tell the truth. But Dolezal's "admission" reminds me of why, a few years back, writing in the Globe and Mail, Our Hero called for a book-world revolution.
C'mon, surely you remember that? Going forward, I wrote, requires a slow-motion, two-step action plan. First step: we divide fact-based literature into two broad categories -- narrative nonfiction and polemical nonfiction. The first includes biography, memoir, travel, popular history, true crime, you get the idea; the second comprises thesis-driven works, artful jeremiads – political, scientific, philosophical.  Along these lines, we reorganize our world.
Second step: we abandon "nonfiction." Yes, I take a hard line. We cease to define countless literary works by what they are not, and in relation to some other genre. As a corollary, we recognize that, as a concept, "creative nonfiction" has taken us as far as it can. We let it go. End result: we will be left with two fact-based literary genres, Narrative and Polemic, both on par with Fiction. So: biographical narrative, historical narrative, true-crime narrative . . . .
Alas, this well-conceived insurgency attracted few followers. But you never know. If we get a few more Rachel Dolezals "admitting" to creative nonfiction, we may yet change the narrative. We may yet see literary types embracing the book-world revolution.


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