Steinberg’s Tribute to Judith Kitchen, CNF Pioneer

January 27, 2015 § 3 Comments

Judith Kitchen with her husband Stan Sanvel Rubin

Judith Kitchen with her husband Stan Sanvel Rubin

Michael Steinberg, founding editor of the journal Fourth Genre and co-editor of the textbook/anthology of the same name, pays tribute to CNF pioneer Judith Kitchen on his blog this week.  Steinberg acknowledges Kitchen for being “one of the first people who wrote, taught, and could speak with authority on/about what we’ve come to describe as ‘creative nonfiction’.” She certainly was, and Judith was among the most generous of literary figures as well.

She is greatly missed. Michael’s blog tribute, with excerpts from Kitchen’s essay “Mending Wall,” is well worth a read, including this gem of a paragraph, quoting Judith on the overuse of the term lyric essay:

This past year, I attended a reading of “lyric essays,” and nothing I heard was, to my mind, lyric. My ears did not quicken. My heart did not skip. What I heard was philosophical meditation, truncated memoir, slipshod research, and just-plain-discursive opinion. A wall of words. But not a lyric essay among them. The term had been minted (brilliantly, it seems to me) by Deborah Tall, then almost immediately undermined. Not all essays are lyric. Repeat. Not all essays are lyric. Not even all short essays are lyric. Some are merely short. Or plainly truncated. Or purely meditative. Or simply speculative. Or. Or. Or. But not lyric. Because, to be lyric, there must be a lyre.

Fourth Genre and the Second Sex

April 14, 2011 § 13 Comments

“The most mediocre of males feels himself a demigod as compared with women.”

So, we’re guessing that got your attention, and also proved that we can make a Simone de Beauvoir reference as well as the next blogger.  Our point?  The excellent nonfiction literary journal Fourth Genre has released its VIDA numbers (ratios of male to female authors submitting and published) in response to the question of whether women are under-represented in magazines due to various gender-based biases. If you missed the VIDA article, click here.

Fourth Genre‘s numbers seem to reinforce what guest blogger William Bradley suggested on this very blog, back when we revealed our own gender ratios.  Bradley wonders if perhaps magazines devoted to nonfiction — Brevity, Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, for example — have better female representation because “the lack of preconceived notions about what nonfiction is and what makes it good somehow spares it from the unintentional institutional sexism that might pervade other genres.”

Here are Fourth Genre‘s comprehensive charts.  They’re posted to Facebook, so we’re not sure if the non-Facebookies amongst you can even access them.  We hope so.  [UPDATE: Fourth Genre has now posted a page of charts for those who can’t access the FB site.]

And we’ll close with one more thought from Simone:

“Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.”

On Gender and Genre: The Nonfiction Count

February 22, 2011 § 6 Comments

Our friend, the essayist William Bradley, commented last week on our VIDA count, and we were so intrigued by his theory on gender parity and genre that we asked him to expand and blog it.  So, here it is:

When VIDA released “The Count” earlier this month, I doubt too many of us were all that surprised.  Deep down, I think most of us—men and women alike—knew that women were still underrepresented in literary magazines.  As artists (and patrons of the arts), I think we sometimes like to pretend that the injustices and prejudices found in our culture don’t really relate to our little community—that we’re somehow above or beyond such ugliness.  But if you’re like me, that type of self-delusion can only take you so far, so that when something like “The Count” is revealed, it causes you to shake your head, sigh, swear, and insist to everyone in your circle of Facebook friends that “things have to change.”  But it doesn’t take you by surprise.

I do have to say that, as a writer and reader of nonfiction, I’ve been kind of gratified to see that my favorite sources for memoirs and personal essays seem to be doing better than some other magazines in terms of publishing talented women writers.  Brevity, as we all know, publishes slightly more women than men, on average.  And, according to their online newsletter for the month of February, Creative Nonfiction published in 2010, on average, an equal number of  men and women.  The most recent issue of River Teeth I found in my house had more men than women in it, but the spring 2010 issue of Fourth Genre had significantly more women than men.

Okay, those last two figures probably aren’t as significant as the first two, as they come from a quick glance at magazines I found in the magazine rack in my living room.  Still, it would seem that these magazines that specialize in nonfiction are, on average, publishing more women than other, comparable literary magazines.

Why is that, I wonder?

Well… I have some thoughts.

I don’t want to bad-mouth other genres, but I feel like a lot of my friends who write poetry and fiction will frequently confuse their own preferred aesthetic with “good writing, period.” I don’t get that same sense from nonfiction, which seems to embrace a variety of approaches (you’d never confuse an Ander Monson essay with a Lauren Slater memoir, or a Lauren Slater memoir with Joan Didion’s reportage). That’s not to say that there aren’t talented people doing bold things in other genres, but I wonder if they have more trouble getting editors and readers to appreciate their unique visions (as opposed to in nonfiction, where the new, the genre-bending, or the form-breaking is almost certain to be celebrated by somebody). All that is to say, I wonder if the lack of preconceived notions about what nonfiction is and what makes it good somehow spares it from the unintentional institutional sexism that might pervade other genres…?

I could be wrong about this, but it seemed like something that might be worth considering.  I’d be interested in hearing what others think.

Michael Steinberg Essay Prize

February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Michael Steinberg Essay Prize Submission Guidelines

About the Award
Fourth Genre will seek the best creative nonfiction essay/memoir for
its sixth annual Michael Steinberg Essay Prize. Authors of previously
unpublished manuscripts are encouraged to enter.

The winning author receives $1,000, and the winning entry will be
published in an upcoming issue of Fourth Genre. Runner-up entry will be
considered for publication.

 

FULL GUIDELINES HERE

 

Michael Steinberg Essay Prize

February 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Fourth Genre is looking for the best creative nonfiction essay/memoir for its sixth annual Michael Steinberg Essay Prize. Authors of previously unpublished manuscripts are encouraged to enter.

The winning author receives $1,000, and the winning entry will be published in an upcoming issue of Fourth Genre. Runner-up entry will be considered for publication.

via Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction.

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