“Literary nonfiction is no place for the rule-followers anyhow. The essay thrives on idiosyncracy, even perversity, on the workings of the individual mind. It parks at expired meters. Feels ironic, then hardcore, then ironic again, blasting De La Soul in its GPSed Subaru with butt warmers on high.
Creative nonfiction in general is no place for the pious, the reverent, the pertinent. Good girls: y’all go on home. Like hackers or raccoons we who remain will pry open whatever. Creative is forever prying open nonfiction, creating a space inside it for artful exploration. Or if you prefer, literary is dry-humping nonfiction. Or lyric is giving a wedgie to essay. And essay is always pulling itself apart because it likes suffering.
In that sense, the only reason for rules is so we have something to break, to bend, to spindle, to mutilate. And that, I think, is a powerful rationale for us to all embrace every rule we can find. As information theorist Bruce Mau puts it, “now that we can do anything, what will we do?” It’s hard to tackle formlessness, limitlessness without some scaffolding or sense of the boundaries.
Writers are not well behaved. We want something to push against. We need you critics to tell us what not to do, so we can do it, you pissed folks who bought Frey’s book and returned it in rage, you Oprahs, you hair-splitters about literary ethics—we need you on that wall.
Our role as nonfictioners who aspire to art is to say, think, and build something interesting, interestingly. If we worship story, then we need to understand that story is what we’re workshopping, I mean worshipping. In that pursuit we’re feeding truth into the woodchipper, feet-first. It screams real loud as it goes.”
from The Woodchipper