The Pull of Nonfiction. Part Two.

Some days ago a girlfriend reminded me that we are “way woman now.” At forty-two, I’ve had many life experiences both good and bad. I’ve lived through an unwanted pregnancy, the birth of my children, the deaths of relatives and high school friends. I’ve had employers who respected me and I’ve worked, too, for a few brain-dead reptilian jerk-offs. I’m better for it. The artifice I wrapped myself in when I was young (as I sought the rewards the world gives for the inauthentic, the charade, the illusion) has been slowly chipped away by these real life events.

One result has been a change in what I like to read and write. I will always read fiction and poetry because it helps me make sense of the world, but I’ve been increasingly drawn to nonfiction. The books that are catching my attention are memoir and essays, and the films I’m watching are documentaries. Being “wired” may have something to do with it. As I navigate the internet I am constantly immersed in nonfiction news stories and video clips. I also think my attraction to nonfiction is just where I am in life: busy enough to want to sit down with a book that tells me up front what it’s about. Novels force me to consider themes and poetry makes me grapple with metaphor and allusion, but nonfiction—even creative nonfiction that uses literary techniques—is straightforward. A grown woman likes straightforwardness.

So over the last months I’ve watched:

Tyson, the documentary about the boxer Mike Tyson;

the Katrina documentary Trouble the Water;

The Thin Blue Line, a docudrama about the wrongful imprisonment of Randall Dale Adams;

Food Inc., a documentary about the food industry;

Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary about the fashion designer Valentino;

and this wonderful archived film of James Baldwin interviewing black San Franciscans circa 1963.

I recommend all of the above!

Still on my list are a documentary about the making of A Chorus Line titled Every Little Step, and Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story.

The nonfiction books on my “to read” list include Cornel West’s memoir, Living and Loving Out Loud, Irene Vilar’s memoir about abortion, Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict, David Small’s graphic memoir Stitches, and Chinua Achebe’s The Education of a British Protected Child.

Being way woman means that I no longer have time to sit with my girlfriend as we did years ago eating salad with Annie’s Naturals Goddess dressing and talking about poetry. Being young was a wonderful trip. I hope to land somewhere near grace.

1 comment:

  1. Will have to check this stuff out! But am now reading The Red and the Black by Stendhal and it is brilliant and far superior to anything I've read in a long time. I've wanted to read it for years. But I'm reading it alongside the history of HK during Japanese Colonialism, a book by our neighbor Philip Snow. An odd but good balance.