Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘fiction vs. memoir’

Reviews |

Nothing Happened and Then It Did, by Jake Silverstein

In what he dubs a “Chronicle in Fact and Fiction,” Silverstein’s book takes aim at the figurative and often porous boundary between memoir and the novel. The author’s real life misadventures inspire their fictional counterpart, and the fiction in turn dovetails with the next stage of his itinerary. As he hops from Texas to Louisiana to Mexico, Silverstein is like a recurring protagonist in a collection of linked stories.


Shop Talk |

Reality and imagination: two sides of the same coin?

In an essay for the New York Times, professor of logic Timothy Williamson examines the connections between imagination and reality—and comes to some counterintuitive conclusions: On further reflection, imagining turns out to be much more reality-directed than the stereotype implies. If a child imagines the life of a slave in ancient Rome as mainly spent watching sports on TV, with occasional household chores, they are imagining it wrong. That is not what it was like to be a slave. The imagination is not just a random idea generator. The test is how close you can come to imagining the life […]


Interviews |

The Truth About Fiction: An Interview with Peter Selgin

Peter Selgin’s debut novel, Life Goes to the Movies, is based in large part on his experiences growing up in New York in the 1970s. JT Torres talks to the author about bringing fact to fiction, strategies for the revision process, why identity is so important in his work, and more. Following the interview is an exclusive excerpt from Selgin’s novel-in-progress, Hattertown.


Shop Talk |

"To travel paths that were unknown to me. To unlock new ideas to me. To be told a story. To entertain myself."

Why do people read fiction? That’s what one user asked recently on Metafilter, a popular community weblog: I don’t understand human behavior. Why do people read and watch fiction books and dramas? It seems like a waste of time. The question garnered over 50 responses—most of which were elegant and eloquent explanations of the value of fiction: from Ash3000: To know that a character is like us, and their inner life includes the same cringing that ours does – or, conversely, to know that they are utterly free of our thinking habits – provides an avenue wherein we can compare […]


Shop Talk |

Fact Checking Fiction?

Like many writers, I often get caught up in details. While working on my novel, I found myself checking the phases of the moon for a particular night, the temperature and weather for a particular day, whether Post-It Notes had been invented by 1977 (no), and when those annoying fasten-seat-belt warning lights became standard in cars (earlier than you’d think). Yes, fiction is made up—but sometimes, if I find myself setting an event in a particular place at a particular time, I feel obligated to get the facts right. Now the Canadian literary journal Taddle Creek is taking fact-checking to […]


Shop Talk |

Real Life: Novel or Memoir?

The latest installment of the L.A. Times’s Off the Shelf series features an essay by writer Maud Newton on why she’s writing a novel instead of a memoir. Newton describes how, as an adolescent, she always thought she’d write a tell-all True Story: Pre-teen novels were my frame of reference. I envisaged a story in the downbeat, questioning vein of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” or “My Darling, My Hamburger.” But unlike those books, mine would be true, and, because I could not see beyond the sphere of my own unhappiness, it would be called, “And You Think […]


Shop Talk |

Gawker auctions signed Palin memoir for charity

War makes strange bedfellows, but what about charity? Gawker attended the National Book Awards and asked attending writers to sign a copy of Sarah Palin’s ghostwritten memoir Going Rogue. The signed book is now up for auction on eBay, with proceeds going to Save the Children. Actually, the combination of Palin + literary stars makes total sense. The Gawker folk explain: At 2009’s National Book Awards we honored Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue as 2010’s frontrunner for the NBA Fiction Prize by getting it signed by the gathered literary luminaries. And now, it can be the best charitable, tax-deductible present ever. […]


Interviews |

Miles from Nowhere: A Conversation with Nami Mun

“Fiction is my default writing mode. Whenever I witness something odd on the streets or hear intriguing dialogue on the trains, my first impulse is to drop these things into my fiction bank. I don’t have a memoir bank. Fiction, to me, is running through the woods rather than running on a treadmill. It’s freedom to make up characters, setting, situations, etc.—and through this freedom I feel better equipped to express and explore my ideas.”


Shop Talk |

[reviewlet rewind] She Got Up Off the Couch, by Haven Kimmel

Reviewlets give FWR contributors the chance to recommend books of all genres that other fiction writers might enjoy. Reviewlet Rewinds like this one highlight books published more than two years ago, and Reviewlet Classics refer to books published more than twenty years ago. At first I was not so sure about She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana (Free Press, 2005), the sequel/companion to Haven Kimmel‘s A Girl Named Zippy. She Got Up seemed like outtakes from its predecessor, and the aw shucks introduction justifying a sequel worried me. (“I didn’t expect much from […]




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