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Gutkind, Lee, ed. The best creative nonfiction, volume 2.

GUTKIND, Lee, ed. The best creative nonfiction, volume 2. Norton. 341 p. c2008. 9780-393-33003-8. $15.95. SA

This is the second year's collection by "the godfather behind creative narrative nonfiction" (Vanity Fair), and it has the kind of sometimes fascinating, sometimes annoying content you might expect from a field with such loose boundaries. It starts with Gutkind's introduction, where he uses his own life to frame a simple, powerful argument for the value of shared story experience on paper--and then argues that the intensity of memory matters more than the truth of what's remembered and that the fiction/nonfiction line shouldn't matter much for such work. He says that reporters cared about what was true and not true in James Frey's controversial work, not readers. Your response to this manifesto is likely to determine how you'll respond to creative nonfiction in general. That said, some of the writing here is searing and terrific. There's a great range of topic and style: straightforward and heart wrenching, inventive and flip, meandering and digressive. Some writers might be familiar (I know Stefan Fatsis from NPR and loved his essay here on his favorite baseball glove), but most won't be. There's some controversial subject matter, mostly treated with reserve and sensitivity: e.g., a short essay on teaching non-English speakers about English expletives, an essay by a former woman soldier about loving guns and women, a portrait of Joy of Sex author Alex Comfort. Each piece comes with an introductory paragraph in which the author explains a key element, and there are useful end-of-the-book sections about the contributors and the publications in which pieces originally appeared. Daniel Levinson, Teacher, Thayer Acad., Braintree, MA
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Author:Levinson, Daniel
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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