n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

nonfiction and fiction

I can't help wondering why this remains such an item of interest for my advisors, who seem to have a bizarro stake in getting me to differentiate the two or to destroy my own differentiation. And it's downright frustrating at times, I think because maybe my advisors persist in thinking I have some kind of naive border erected between the two and when I say, "this piece is nonfiction," or even if I refrain from warning that it's nonfiction, all of a sudden it goes into a discussion of what the difference is for me and, if I am talking to NS, whether I am forcing myself into genre typifications, blah blah blah, or if I was talking to AC, whether my interest in nonfiction means I am capitulating to societal standards of truth.

Maybe what creates this recurrent nightmare of a conversation is the persistence people have in believing that nonfiction and fiction are binary oppositions, that one is created by the lack of the other--nonfiction being made like a negative portrait of what is left over from the creation of fiction. But nonfiction is not the absense of fiction, and it can't be defined by simply being what fiction is not. These two genres do not belong on the opposite sides of the library shelves, and I am sorry if the capitalist machine insists on codifying and groupifying experience to the extent that must draw some kind of strange line I can't see between, say, fantasy and science fiction.

But when I use the terms, I do not use them like libraries use them... in that "this is where this belongs," or "this is where that belongs." But more of an understanding with myself of the type of task I'm approaching, maybe like different parts of fishing--nonfiction being more like mending a net and putting it out there to catch fish, and fiction being more like thinking about other ways to put out the net, or to utilize the net. It's the same material--mesh that has been woven into a form--and without one you don't have the other, i.e. if you don't mend, or if you don't get the net out there, you don't catch fish, but if you can't think through alternatives and keep your mind on its toes, you might not continue to catch the fish in the same place time and time again, and also life gets a little boring and rote if you don't think of new options.

And I don't see the point of creating a hierarchy as to which is better, which is more engaged in truth. They are both methods of truth search, and some people are drawn to making truth in one form, by seeing and questioning, by pulling together and realigning sense, or in the other form, by creating new futures or parallels in order to understand the flexibility and maleability of the one we think we are standing in.

But for me, making a distinction between nonfiction and fiction has also been kind of a refuge when my mind is not healthy or happy. Knowing the difference between what I experienced and what I made has been important. And even if it's somewhat arbitrary, drawing a line between fiction and nonfiction has provided a means of escaping insanity. To recycle another metaphor... I keep thinking of definitions as being like the task of wrapping a baby. Too tight and the baby suffocates, too loose and the freedom makes the baby feel lost and unheld. We like our definitions because we like boundaries to surround us and hold us inside some comprehension of where we are. But we also like to cross boundaries, to untie ourselves from the blanket, when we feel confident. But if we are not confident, being held is a place to begin to feel that way.

I can't help feeling that only a person who has never lost their sense of reality can afford to take away the language we use to create a sense of firm ground. It is a dangerous task, looking to invest in nonlanguage.

In the case of my conversation with my advisor NS, I also feel like she keeps wanting me to abandon narrative even, or at least to question my interest in narrative, much less put up with categories such as nonfiction or fiction. But I understand all about the power structures created and recreated in narrative, and I understand that anecdote doesn't solve everything, but this does not remove the love I've had my whole life, from when I was three years old and spending hours with my books, for stories, stories and stories. Yarns and fables, fairy tales, gossips, everything having to do with stories. Yes, there was the love of language in general like babbling rhythms, but more than that for me, has been the love of story. And I don't feel like apologizing to postmodernists, who's notion of non-narrative seems like something that wants more than anything else to become the next fixed point. And I don't feel like apologizing to traditionalists, who's notion of normative narrative makes my brain ache with boredom. I don't know what I really think, but right now I feel like these questions are counterintiutive and push against the nature of writing, which in my case involves the release of all consideration of what I'm doing for the nonintellectual process of just doing it.

So, I find it totally bizarre to have these conversations, repeated, about distinctions and boundaries, when what they are are simple words and ways of approaching the task. When I say, "this is nonfiction," I guess I mean to suggest something about the nature of my creative process, and less about the product and whether I want someone to "believe" it. Writing nonfiction sometimes feels more intuitive for me, although lately, maybe because I haven't been journaling as much, it feels a little too demanding. At this moment, the flexibility to make shit up feels more fun and honest. Also, I'm just not that intrigued in what's going on around me... that little travel open-window-everything-rushing-little- detail-before-me instinct is gone. But that never stays put.

Anyhow, just a little irk and thinking about things too much boredom. Maybe I need to get out of this country this summer...

Oh, I should mention however that I heart Beth Nugent. She is an amazing teacher, and I am so thankful to get to work with her. And of course, NS is a good advisor as well; I just think she feels she has so much at stake in a particular way of looking at writing that she sometimes forgets to notice who I am.
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