February 8, 2009 § 2 Comments
Mary Richert, who reviews Infidel in the most recent Brevity, blogs on stories that must be told, pretty or not:
I used to be the type of young writer who felt all writing should be art, indeed everything should be art. I thought what you wore every day had to be art, and what you ate for dinner should be art, and what you did for a living should be art. And I thought art should be this sort of miraculous happening, spurred by muses and coffee and ushered in by a romantic depression. And I thought all factual writing — political writing, journalism, book reviews, etc. — were not art and therefore not valid except in the most base respect. I was so stupid.
Reading Infidel, which was assigned to me by Diana Hume George in my 3rd semester of the Goucher MFA program, opened my eyes to a more practical aspect of writing that I now feel does qualify as art, even if it’s not full of vague metaphors. You see, there are stories that must be told, and so often, they cannot be told prettily. Infidel is that kind of story. It’s not pretty, neither the writing, nor the facts. And the author is not beyond criticism, as my classmates and I discussed at length. But in reality, and especially in creative nonfiction, do we really want a narrator who is beyond reproach? I have finally decided that, no, we don’t because it wouldn’t be nonfiction anymore.
Infidel is not a book I will look to to understand the aesthetics of writing, but it certainly opened my eyes to a part of our world that I might not have known otherwise, which I think is the true purpose of books. After reading Infidel, I went on to read a variety of other books about women and Islam, and each one gave me a broader perspective and a greater love for the women of Islamic societies. Azar Nafisi, who is a literature professor, writes Reading Lolita in Tehran with the confidence of someone who has read a great deal and knows what makes a book tick. Marjane Satrapi uses a simplistic touch in Persepolis. Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh is light and fun and has been discussed as a Saudi Arabian version of “Sex and the City.” Seen as a group, these books vary in their literary merit if you only judge merit in terms of and author’s aesthetic ability, but what they all offer is a unique perspective, and that’s what I’m trying to get at.
Seen from a single perspective, all the world is flat.
January 22, 2009 § 2 Comments
BREVITY, the journal of concise nonfiction, launches the 29th issue today, bringing you the Big Bad Wolf, a glass eyeball, Parisian lingerie, a pair of stolen sneakers, an orphaned doe, and, possibly, a visitor from another planet. Maybe it’s just the snow playing tricks on our eyes, but each of these pieces seems to ask the same thing: “Did I see what I think I saw?” Bundle up and get warm by the intense fire of such talents as Lance Larsen, David Bradley, Tim Elhajj, John Bresland, Diane Seuss, Joe Bonomo, Kyle Minor, Laura Sewell Matter, Elizabeth Westmark, and Bryan Fry. Also, new Craft Essays from Brenda Miller and Lisa Knopp, and Book Reviews from Mary Richert, Richard Gilbert, and Stephanie Susnjara.