Ruth Franklin on Daisey and D’Agata

This piece from the New Republic site by the always-worth-reading Ruth Franklin is especially noteworthy for some sharp, to-the-point comments, especially regarding the salutary example set by the great W.G. Sebald. I for one do not understand why writers working from life feel uncomfortable, once they diverge from life, characterizing their work as fiction, as Sebald did and as generations of writers before him did. There’s certainly a long enough tradition of roman a clef and other related techniques. To my mind, a big part of the problem here is writers’ desire to claim everything that comes with characterizing their work as true, or nonfiction. This is partly a question of the meaning of genre, but also, as I see it, a question of whether writers wish to (unfairly) score the cultural lift associated with nonfiction and memoir these days, as fiction’s star has faded in comparison. Part of this lift is, unfortunately, commercial.

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