Creative and literary non-fiction

Updated Feb 2017.

I’m drawn to reading (and writing, translating, curating…) creative and literary non-fiction. Here’s some linkage.

Subgenres include place writing (in Denmark; sub-subgenre: nature writing), life writing, memoir, biofictionbibliomemoirs (JCO; the Gdn’s Top 10 books about reading also identifies the sub-subgenre of metabooks, or how books became).

Others are sui generis, such as Philippe Sands’ (@philippesands; Gdn) series of linked projects he calls the Lemberg Quartet: A song of good and evil ( ‘musical lecture’, 2014), My Nazi legacy (film, 2015) and East west street (book, 2016; how he wrote it).

Some bibliomemoirs and related:

I’ve a fair few Russian literary biogs in this category, for example Janet Malcolm’s Reading Chekhov.

We also have writing about the characters in (or simply recreating/imagining) classic novels. Often peripheral characters are given a voice, eg Gwendolen in Daniel Deronda, The Mersault investigation (ie “The Arab” in L’Étranger), the real Lara in Dr Zhivago.

Biofiction can be tricky (Katy Derbyshire: “using real-life characters in fiction can feel disrespectful when a writer assumes too much about what’s going on inside their heads”). As well as lots of Tolstoy, recent examples include Miss Emily (Emily Dickinson and a maid), Julian Barnes on Shostakovich (again; although JB maintains “biographical novels are kind of cheesy”), The late Walter Benjamin, notable for being set on a council estate near Watford, Polly Clark’s Larchfield (WH Auden in Helensburgh), Mikhail and Margarita, which is so obvious it’s amazing it’s taken this long to appear (here’s another one: Agatha Christie’s disappearance), and An overcoat (Stendhal).

Here we find a subgenre of graphic novels cum biographies (Gdn best 2017):


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s