Imagination in Creative Nonfiction: Huber on Cullen

April 19, 2011 § 3 Comments


Sonya Huber, author of the outstanding healthcare memoir Cover Me and keeper of the oddly-named psychedelic blog “Literary nonfiction, writing, various ridiculous things in bright orange,” has an intriguing and sensible take on how fictionalized scenarios can fit into creative nonfiction work.  Here is an excerpt from the complete post:

Heidi Cullen’s recent book, The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet seems like it should be required reading for anyone living in this era of global warming (and that would be all of us) … and (it includes) something cool to think about in the land of literary nonfiction: at the end of every chapter, Cullen presents imagined scenarios of what might happen in specific regions in the future. The cue to the reader is simple: a date that hasn’t happened yet. And this is 1) clear to any reader who’s paying attention and 2) eminently helpful. What she does is take the dire and abstract predictions of science and make them REAL and also more specific and human by imagining one scenario of how global warming might affect people, geography, the environment, and the weather. This is a lovely example of genre-bending as well as a clear use of fiction, clearly demarcated, within nonfiction, for the purposes of reader edification. The takeaway: imagination is NOT anathema in the field of literary nonfiction. In fact, I think it’s a no-brainer for good nonfiction. All you have to do is communicate to the reader that you’re stepping into the land of “let’s imagine.”

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