Nonfiction Workshop: Recollected in Commotion


Film historian Ray Carney said, “Consciousness cannot precede expression.” Or, as Joan Didion put it, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.” All forms of nonfiction—from hard news and biography to the experimental essay—bring the writer into a unique relationship with fact and perception. In this workshop, we’ll examine what makes compelling nonfiction, looking closely at crafting a narrative from raw data, the tension between bias and objectivity, the responsibility of the writer to his or her subject, and, most of all, how a writer’s thinking develops and shifts during his or her explorations. We’ll discuss student work each week and examine previously published pieces, which will include parts of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Didion’s The White Album, Denis Johnson’s Seek, critics Greg Tate and Lester Bangs on Miles Davis (and we may hear a little bit from Miles himself), Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Richard Meltzer’s Gulcher, and Sarah Manguso’s The Two Kinds of Decay, among others.