Content Tagged ‘Norman Mailer’

[Literary mind: Rebecca McClanahan.]

Among the poets

June 25, 2014 | 17 Comments

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Perils of persona

December 12, 2013 | 11 Comments

Ten Notions About Persona in Nonfiction:

1. “Truth is subjectivity.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript.

Every human experience is first passed through the scrim of emotion. A vital tool in our kit. Consider the jury system.

Art is made from emotion, about emotion, elicits emotion.

But for making art from experience, like Kierkegaard did, craft is required. Techniques that tell the reader a wiser intelligence is at work to wrest something shapely from the quotidian, from chaos, from mere moods. Part of this craft of presentation is the creation of a palatable, truth-telling persona. Witty or somber. Earnest or flip. Glimpsed in the margins, or all over everything like white on rice.

This is an approved practice. Rock solid. Take it to the bank.

2. “A sensibility we construct into some kind of figure is what keeps the reader going.”—former Atlantic editor Richard Todd, to a workshop I attended.

This emphasizes Persona 1: the person telling the story, someone come to testify or entertain. Both, really, always.

Often as well there’s Persona 2: the former self in the experience being depicted or discussed. Behind these, there’s the writer creating each persona. Is that Persona 3? Or is that “you”?

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Memoirist, skin thy own cat

October 5, 2012 | 14 Comments

Salman Rushdie on the novel’s debt to memoir, memoir’s debt to New Journalism—and why the novel is harder than either. The foment over Salman Rushdie’s new memoir led me in a roundabout way to interviews with him on YouTube. One of the best is the long talk above, recorded at Emory University, when he was in the midst of writing Joseph Anton—apparently he wrote some of it there—because he drills into memoir’s granular issues. I got the sense in this …

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Leverage of persona in memoir

March 18, 2012 | 22 Comments

Childhood tales by Jeannette Walls, Harry Crews & Annie Dillard. Joining millions of others, I’ve now read Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle. Walls wins the prize for modern memoir’s most dysfunctional family, edging out even Frank McCourt. Yet her damaged father inculcated Walls’s belief in herself—he made her feel special even as she wore filthy rags. And her equally neglectful but uniquely disordered mother banned self-pity and enshrined art of all kinds. Walls became a journalist, focused on celebrity …

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Dave Eggers on journalism’s virtues

May 3, 2010 | 2 Comments

Author Dave Eggers burst onto the literary scene with his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; his latest book, Zeitoun, is about the Homeland Security/FEMA ordeal suffered by a Syrian-American immigrant and his family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Eggers recently gave an interview to Jeff Gordinier for Creative Nonfiction (Spring 2010) in which he talked about the immersion journalism he undertook to report Zeitoun. He talked about the influence of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road …

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Norman Mailer on nonfiction

October 1, 2009 | One Comment

from an interview with the late writer Norman Mailer by J. Michael Lennon for Creating Nonfiction: A Guide and Anthology by Becky Bradway and Doug Hesse: “The form, the medium, determines the message. And the message you receive from a novel is different from the message—usually less interesting—that comes to you from nonfiction. Therefore, I like my nonfiction to read like a novel. By which I don’t mean that I fudge the facts. On the contrary, since I’m already out …

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