The Great Deep Heart of Nonfiction: with Christin Geall
I once heard that a person should ‘write the book they want to read.’ What’s the book you’d write if you could? Are you writing that book now?
So many books jump into my mind with this question — February by Lisa Moore,The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet, Fishing with John by Edith Iglauer, but I’m not going to choose any of these. Instead — and this is a little crazy because I haven’t read it yet — I’m choosing Vivian Gornick’s recently published memoir, The Odd Woman and the City, which is described as vignettes from her walks through the city. So much of this appeals — "vignettes," for one — “odd” for another, and the brief description: “The author spends her time walking around and observing New York City, while ruminating on friendship, love, and feminism. Reading her book, you feel like you’re talking to the smartest, wittiest mentor in the world.” (Sarah Selzer)
Isn’t that nice? Wouldn’t you like to be called the smartest, wittiest mentor in the world? Well, we’re talking about fantasies here. What excites me most is the idea that a book can be made of vignettes and rumination. The other thrill is that on reading the first chapter, I discover it’s also about irritation, which appeals enormously. I love books by women who are independent, who are odd, who are irritated. It’s so refreshing, like jumping outside of everything we’re supposed to be. To me that's as dramatic as reading a book about climbing K2. And now to further rationalize this choice I'm going to say that choosing a book I haven't read makes as much sense as thinking of a book I haven't yet written. Both are equal invitations to hope, wild dreams, the great stir of anticipation. Keep reading.
Shelf Exposure with Julie Wilson, 49th Shelf
The fabulous Julie Wilson interviews me about the contents of my bookcase. My theme is badly behaved women. Watch.
CFUV Radio: U in the Ring with Liz McArthur
The University of Victoria radio station interviewed me and Ashley Little in March, 2014, just before the BC Book Prizes. Listen.
Author's Essays Alert to Nuance with Lynne van Luven
Jane, I notice that you also write and publish fiction and poetry. Can you talk about how your personal and public selves intersect in those two genres and whether that relationship differs in creative nonfiction?
Thank you, Lynne. I like that idea of personal and public selves. It gives me a momentary sense that I’m in control—instead of the usual feeling that my various selves are running off on their own and then crashing into one another in great, public messes. That’s a joke, I hope. In truth, I think we shift moment to moment from public to personal—from an awareness of the exterior back to the interior. I believe that awareness follows a similar path in all of the genres. And for me it always starts in the personal, some question or conundrum that I want to explore. I choose the genre depending on my need for privacy. Fiction offers the most. I can cloak my personal self in imagined characters and situations, knowing I’m protected somewhat by that scaffold or scrim of invention and also by people’s expectations of the genre. When I write CNF, the impetus is the same, the personal at the core, but because I can’t make things up, and I’m using the personal to illustrate it, I have to create that distance or scaffold in a different way. I do that by carefully choosing which experiences to use and also by research. If something feels too revealing, too close, I go out into the world and find other people’s voices to say what I want to say. Keep reading.
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