About the book
Anyone still asking, “What is creative nonfiction?” will find the answer in this collection of artfully crafted, true stories. These stories—ranging from immersion journalism to intensely personal essays—illustrate the genre’s power and potential. Edwidge Danticat recalls her Uncle Moïse’s love of a certain four-letter word and finds in his abandonment of the word near the end of his life the true meaning of exile. In “Literary Murder,” Julianna Baggott traces her roots as a novelist to her family’s “strange, desperate (sometimes conniving and glorious) past” and writes about her decision, in The Madam, to kill off a character based on her grandfather. And Sean Rowe explains why, if you must get arrested, Selma, Alabama, is the place to do it. This exciting and expansive array of works and voices is sure to impress and delight.
With the big subjects of life and death framing the smaller frustrations of everyday existence, this third volume in the Creative Nonfiction series showcases a type of journalism that in many ways is informed by cutting-edge media. Indeed, of the 25 essays reprinted, one-quarter first appeared on the Web. As diverse as the subjects are, so are the writers represented. Likewise, there is a range in length, from blogs under one page to 20-page narratives. Predictably, the essays also display varying levels of inspiration and sparkle. Among the standouts is five-time Pushcart winner Brenda Miller on a girl's changing relationship with her body as she grows into womanhood; Edwidge Danticat on an uncle's love of the ultimate expletive; an emotional “Letter from a Japanese Crematorium” by Marie Mutsuki Mockett; a family car deal gone awry by Margaret Conway; an exploration of the meaning of the mass murders at Virginia Tech through the sad eyes of gunman Seung-Hui Cho by Wesley Yang. The energetic Gutkind (Almost Human) edits his lean anthology with panache and gusto.
—Publishers Weekly, August 2009
VERDICT For the most part, the writing in this collection is powerful—the essays and blogs entertain, inform, and inspire. Followers of contemporary issues presented in compelling prose will devour.
—Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN, for Library Journal
I’ve enjoyed reading “The Best Creative Nonfiction” anthologies that Norton has published for the past three summers. Excellently edited by Lee Gutkind, the founder of the journal Creative Nonfiction, and the man whom Harper’s has called “the leading figure behind the creative nonfiction movement,” the books collect the year’s best writing in this genre from newspapers, literary magazines large and small, and yes, blogs. This year’s collection contains seven entries from the Web—more than any previous edition—and one of them, Kathy Rhodes’s “Open Letter” to her husband in the wake of his sudden and catastrophic death—is, to my mind, one of the best in the book.
—Andrea Walker, The Book Bench (newyorker.com), July 27, 2009