27 January 2010

Sherbrooke University

An exciting conflation or mixing of genres has occurred in contemporary writing. We no longer insist on the comfortable demarcation between fiction and non-fiction. Novels come with bibliographical references. Works of Non-Fiction include fictionalized dialogue and anecdotal references. Even in journalism we have come to be interested in the autobiographical. In the old days, the sine qua non of journalism was that it had to be objective. Now much of the best journalism is I centered. Why this interest in Intimate revelation? I believe this insistence on intimacy has to do with the postmodern dismantling of the old orthodoxies: in an age when all ideologies have been called into doubt, the only ground left for public statement is, paradoxically, personal experience. As I look back over my writing career and the twelve books I have published, I ask myself why I have been committed to the art of Creative Non-fiction, that art that is centered in the potency of bearing witness, where the author records what has actually happened, tethered to history, context, time, and place, while being candid about the motives and experience of the person doing the recording, namely him or herself. This lecture will be about the subtext to a number of my books, about the factual stories I encountered in my research, which are as compelling and complex as any fiction.