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Truth in Nonfiction: Essays [Paperback]

David Lazar
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 1, 2008 1587296543 978-1587296543 1
Even before the controversy that surrounded the publication of A Million Little Pieces, the question of truth has been at the heart of memoir. From Elie Wiesel to Benjamin Wilkomirski to David Sedaris, the veracity of writers’ claims has been suspect. In this fascinating and timely collection of essays, leading writers meditate on the subject of truth in literary nonfiction. As David Lazar writes in his introduction, “How do we verify? Do we care to? (Do we dare to eat the apple of knowledge and say it’s true? Or is it a peach?) Do we choose to? Is it a subcategory of faith? How do you respond when someone says, ‘This is really true’? Why do they choose to say it then?”

The past and the truth are slippery things, and the art of nonfiction writing requires the writer to shape as well as explore. In personal essays, meditations on the nature of memory, considerations of the genres of memoir, prose poetry, essay, fiction, and film, the contributors to this provocative collection attempt to find answers to the question of what truth in nonfiction means.

Contributors: John D’Agata, Mark Doty, Su Friedrich, Joanna Frueh, Ray González, Vivian Gornick, Barbara Hammer, Kathryn Harrison, Marianne Hirsch, Wayne Koestenbaum, Leonard Kriegel, David Lazar, Alphonso Lingis, Paul Lisicky, Nancy Mairs, Nancy K. Miller, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Phyllis Rose, Oliver Sacks, David Shields, and Leo Spitzer

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The spirit of Montaigne is invoked more than once in these 20 essays on the thorny question of the nature of truth in nonfiction. Lazar writes, Nonfiction blends fact and artifice in an attempt to arrive at truth, or truths. This frequently includes great leaps of the imagination. In personal essays, diary excerpts, prose poems and parts of film scripts, distinguished writers grapple with the ethical dilemmas posed by memoirs, autobiographical essays and creative nonfiction. Phyllis Rose and Nancy K. Miller raise issues of privacy: the impossibility of telling one's life story without involving others. Kathryn Harrison references Magritte's account of his mother's suicide, true only in the way he imagined it, and her own conviction that she was responsible for her mother's disappearance. Confessing her anguish, Vivian Gornick revisits the minor literary scandal raised when she admitted conflating some incidents in her memoir, Fierce Attachments. She persuasively maintains that memoirs belong to the category of literature, not of journalism. While not all the essays are equally trenchant, overall they provide some valuable insights—but no conclusive ethical definitions—about what has become a controversial genre. 18 photos (May)
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Review

“At last, as engrossing and intellectually sophisticated and varied a discussion of these sticky topical issues as one could ever hope to find. What makes the book even better is that so many of these pieces are stunning essays in their own right.”—Phillip Lopate, author, Getting Personal: Selected Writings


“The issue of truth in nonfiction is a heated topic. . . . This collection is an absolutely necessary addition to the subject—and it’s absolutely necessary right now, given the amount of attention our culture pays to the subject with all those endless reviews on imposters, Oprah, and so forth.”—Lia Purpura, author, On Looking: Essays

Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587296543
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587296543
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing musing May 9, 2012
Format:Paperback
Killer! Knockout!! How come no reviews??? Around twenty contributors muse on where life meets literature. Would make a fine bedside book
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