Week One (or, Overwhelmed)

photo (1)The first week of Honours has felt like a first step into unheated water — the moment (week) that shocks even though it’s exactly what you should be expecting. Reading and pitching and hiIdon’tknowyournameyeting and hearing ideas from clearly talented people who are older and seem so much surer of themselves than you think you could ever be.

As you may know already if you’ve read my research question (previous post), 2013 is all about nonfiction for me. This is for a few reasons: 1. I think everything I’ve written in the last three or so years has been true and not-very-well labelled fiction; 2. I’ve never much liked the process of constructing a plot and characters to seem “realistic”; 3. I was fortunate enough to attend the 2012 NonFictioNow conference at RMIT, which raised many questions for me: What is a true story, if we can only ever write subjectively? Can the truth of a story be found in true events and characters, or in philosophical truths that are found between the lines?

My response to our first classes has been mixed — one particular class on alternative culture had me cowering like a first year undergrad with nothing meaningful to add to the discussion, while others (in particular the Nonfiction Lab) I walked away from feeling inspired and excited for the year ahead. As is obvious in the booklist below, I dove straight into the reading part of my research, which may not be as productive as it looks. In the past I’ve often used intensive reading as a way to prolong the time before I have to write. Lack of confidence in my own ideas is something I hope to overcome this year — more on that soon, I think. In the meantime, treading water I’ve never entered before.

BOOKS READING

Our Father Who Wasn’t There, David Carlin (Yes, I’m reading my tutor’s book — so what? I’ve found in the past few years that when someone’s critiquing my practice or my ideas, I find it easier to see where they’re coming from if I know what their ideas/practices are.)

Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction, Lee Gutkind (Gutkind is the founding editor of Creative Nonfiction and makes the claim in this book that he invented that term, so I’m keen to find out what his opinions are on my research areas.)

BOOKS COMPLETED

Taming the Beast, Emily Maguire (I sought out this book after proofreading the upcoming issue of Lip, which features an interview with the author. It was appalling, and not in a good way — please don’t read it, as it will probably scar you, and/or make you angry.)

The Little Friend, Donna Tartt (fiction, but as declared to The New York Times Book Review, ‘It grips you like a fairy tale, but denies you the consoling assurance that it’s all just make-believe.’ Tartt is better known for her novel The Secret History, and both novels – if this is even possible – play on the conventions of nonfiction writing to make the constructed (and quite horrid) events read as if they truly happened.)

BOOKS BOUGHT

Enduring Love, Ian McEwan (I think McEwan also often employs nonfiction conventions to make his characters and their lives read as if they truly exist. I’m not talking about fiction’s “suspense of belief” here.)

You. An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person, edited by Kim Dana Kupperman, Heather G. Simons and James M. Chesbro (I can’t wait for this anthology to appear in my letterbox! Having stubbornly written in second person for nearly a year of my creative writing degree before being critiqued to my senses, I was excited to learn that second person nonfic writing can indeed be successful.)

The Arvon Book of Literary Nonfiction, by Sally Cline and Midge Gillies (An impulse buy, mainly due to the promise of genre exploration made on the front cover.)

BOOKS BORROWED

The First Stone, Helen Garner (One of Garner’s many controversial works, this book recounts a sexual harassment case that Garner researched rather than experienced. Being in the same position within my own nonfiction project, I hope to learn from where Garner apparently ‘went wrong‘.)

Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung (Introducing myself to some general psychological theories about memory, to [possibly] help contextualise the literary works I’m looking at.)

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One thought on “Week One (or, Overwhelmed)

  1. Pingback: » Grounded Research Is

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