Nonfiction Workshop: The Shock of the Ordinary
To make the quotidian, the everyday, the unspectacular come alive—to make us experience differently and anew what we thought was familiar —is one of the most unheralded and crucial aspects of good writing. Without it, our work—no matter how urgent or dramatic—will not take on a breathing life of its own. This seminar will focus on what is right in front of the writer’s, and everyone else’s, nose yet goes unnoticed. The reading list will include, in part: Random Family, by Adrian Nicole Leblanc; Philip Roth’s memoir Patrimony; A Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolff; Janet Malcolm’s In the Freud Archives; and Joseph Roth’s collection of impressionistic essays, What I Saw. We will also dip into the works of certain fiction writers whose eye for the living quotidian detail is applicable to nonfiction, as well: Bernard Malamud’s early stories, Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Our goal will be both to sharpen this aspect of writing as it pertains to our own work and to understand the range of possibility and individual style that it may entail.