The First of a Few Posts about Creative Nonfiction

... And I'm back. By the time I got home from the airport, it was a little after 11:00-- just in time to catch the rerun of this week's absolutely hysterical South Park (if you stopped watching South Park years ago, like a lot of hipsters, then you've missed out on some of the best, most intelligent satire on television-- this show keeps getting better as Trey Parker gets older). I'm not really interested in talking about South Park today, though-- I've been thinking a lot about creative nonfiction, and I've got some ideas.

I've also got some fatigue, and some student essays to comment on, so I think I'll save a lot of my more complicated (and less well-thought-out) ideas for later in the week, when I have more time to develop them. A few hints of things to come, though:

1) Despite its unpopularity and general clunkiness as a term, "creative nonfiction" is still the best name for this genre of writing.

2) David Foster Wallace's introduction to this year's Best American Essays starts out awesome, then suddenly turns simplistic and kinda ignorant, then becomes damn near brilliant-- it would be inaccurate to say I "liked" it, because the stuff he gets wrong, he gets really, really wrong (as far as I'm concerned), but it's certainly not boring-- and the ending is quite inspiring.

3) Natalia Singer and David Griffith are totally awesome.

Like I said, I'll elaborate on all that stuff later. For now, though, I'd like to point out that the editors of The Bellevue Literary Review have put their downloadable study guide for the new Best of the Bellevue Literary Review anthology on their website. I point this out because I, your humble blogging essayist, have an essay appearing in that very anthology, and therefore get some discussion questions in the study guide. It's kinda rad, to see study guide questions about one's own life-- "What is the relationship between the narrator and his fiancé? Do they deal with it differently?" is one question that, frankly, I'd be fascinated to know the answer to. I'd love to turn invisible and go listen it to a class discuss my relationship with Emily.

Anyway, if anyone wants to teach my essay "The Bald and the Beautiful, or On Soap Operas", here are some study guide questions I've come up with:

1) The narrator's about to marry someone smarter, better looking, and more charming than he is. What could happen to a woman to destroy her self-esteem so thoroughly that she would agree to marry such a douchebag?

2) In the essay, the narrator hypothesizes that General Hospital villain Luis Alacazar was murdered by Roy DiLuca or an older enemy of mob boss/ soap opera sex god Sonny Corinthos. As we all know now, Alcazar was murdered by attorney Alexis Davis. Why was this so stupid, and why would it have been better if Roy had been the murderer?

3) This is an essay about the narrator's experiences as a cancer patient. Should the author have killed off the main character to make the story more dramatic?

4) Really, what the hell is "creative nonfiction" anyway? Wouldn't this piece have been better if the author has turned it into a short story and had, like, robots and ninjas and stuff? And maybe he could have a drug addiction, too? And he could totally have sex with these, like, hot nurses. That would be sweet. No question here, really.

5) Physician and essayist Arthur Kleinman has advocated that doctors and medical students should employ a more holistic approach in their interactions with patients, treating the patient's entire "illness experience" rather than just the biological causes of disease in order to improve the patient's quality of life. With that in mind, don't you think Arthur Kleinman would probably want to pull the plug on this whiney, self-absorbed little prick of a narrator? And maybe kick him in the crotch, for good measure? Don't you want to give him a good crotch-kick?

In all seriousness, I can't tell you how psyched am I to think that something I've written gets study guide questions. You know who else gets study guide questions in lots of anthologies? Leo Tolstoy. You know who else? Virginia Woolf. You know who else? James Baldwin.

That's right-- Tolstoy. Woolf. Baldwin. Bradley. Study us.

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