Monday, June 14, 2010

Stan Persky on nonfiction

Stan Persky is only one of many contributors to the essay and criticism website called Dooney's Cafe, but he's consistently the most interesting. Example: a brief apercu on nonfiction writing, in the midst of an essay about T. F. Rigelhof's Hooked on Canadian Books:
Even if I restrict myself to national writing (and I must admit to being a little suspicious about the very notion), if somebody asks me, “Read any good Canadian books lately?”, my first thought isn’t necessarily going to be about Canadian fiction. I’m more likely to name Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine (2007), Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919 (2002), Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night (2006), Terry Glavin’s Waiting for the Macaws (2006), or any of a half dozen other non-fiction works. Not to be coy about it, I think that one of the crucial critical judgments about Canadian writing of the last quarter-century is that its non-fiction, including that undefinable genre-bending writing that goes by the unsatisfactory name of “creative” or “literary non-fiction,” has been more relevant to our understanding of ourselves, and less subject to the industrial orders-of-the-day than most (but of course not all) of our fiction.
Persky does not mention it, but his own work -- he's prolific, but Then We Take Berlin comes to mind -- ought to be part of the non-fiction shortlist he offers.

Rigelhof's "books" actually means "novels" which is another of Persky's reservations about it. (Hat tip: Merna Kostash.)
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