I’ve never been one to browse the non fiction section at my local bookstore or library. I write fiction and therefore I read it. It is probable that my logic is very different from yours, but I’m young and I was naive. Even during my first non fiction writing course, I steered clear of it outside of class. It wasn’t until three semesters later that I realized I really enjoyed non fic. Around that same time, I realized I liked writing it, too. Coincidence?
Since I’ve avoided the genre for so long, I’m now trying to catch up. I’m currently reading Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman and Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream by Buzz (H.G.) Bissinger.
If you aren’t familiar with either, here’s a quick rundown.
Fargo Rock City is Klosterman’s memoir about growing up in a small North Dakota town, population 498, and loving the 80s rock and roll scene.
Friday Night Lights is something of an expose on Texas high school football. Bissinger follows a few players from a high school team and highlights the pressures they’re under as well as the celeb-like treatment they get for being starters and what kind of success these things set them up for. Hint, hint: it’s pretty much zero.
(I’ve always thought the rumors about the importance of Texas football were grosly embellished, but not according to this book. If the title sounds familiar, it a 2004 major motion picture of the same name, which then spawned an award-winning NBC series in 2006–you should check them both out.)
Both of these books are making me rethink some of my writing. I’ve felt a kinship with the creative elements of fiction, but the more nonfiction I read, the more I realize how much can be done. In my second nonfiction writing class, my professor wanted to expose us to the various formats writers are using in the genre. Two things that stood out were Nox by Anne Carson and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Both are rather unconventional, but I would argue that Nox is most unusual. While Fun Home is so because it’s a comic, most people are generally familiar with comic strips so it’s not quite as striking as Nox, which is printed on paper that is folded accordion-style and presented in a box, loosely. There is very little writing in it; much of the text is on letters and pictures. It looks as if it’s the love child of a puzzle and a scrapbook.
Seeing these types of formats have opened my eyes to new creative elements. In addition to the writing, there is the presentation. I’m thinking that this could be quite useful in terms of tailoring your work for your intended audience.
Another thing that is striking a chord with me is the content that is covered in non fiction. Both of the books I’m reading now are relevant to my interests. I certainly never thought I would get a chance to read a book about growing up loving hairbands. (What d’ya know, I’m not the only one!) This revelation is making me wonder what other books I’ve missed, where do I find them, and do I have the “writing chops” to fill an entire book? or am I strictly essay?
I’d like to compile a list of non fiction books I need to read. I would appreciate your comments with suggestions! (and let me know if you know of anymore alternatively formatted works)