Good Reading : February 2005
categorical 22 goodreading With publishers closing their fiction lists to new writers, would-be novelists may wonder how they’ll ever make the bestseller list with their Great Australian Novel. Or pay the rent in the meantime. But instead of giving way to despair, our wannabes should take a tip from some out- standing fiction authors: try your hand at non-fiction as well. Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Ernest Hemmingway, George Orwell,Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe, along with Australians Drusilla Modjeska, Mandy Sayer, Robert Dessaix and Helen Garner, are just some of the acclaimed fiction writers who have crossed the fiction/ non-fiction divide. When writers of this quality turn their talents to non- fiction, the result is not your run-of-the-mill ‘how-to’ book. George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966), Drusilla Modjeska’s Poppy (1990), or most recently Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) offer comprehensively researched, carefully crafted, accessible and thought-provoking non-fiction. Often called ‘creative non fiction’, this imaginative, literary non-fiction has a distinguished past and a vibrant present. Creative non-fiction has roots in the personal essays of the 16th century French intellectual Montaigne, and owes much to literary writers whose finances or politics encouraged them to write non-fiction. Alongside the documentary journalism of Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, and George Orwell we find the war reporting and memoirs of Ernest Hemingway and the social commentaries of Mark Twain, and EB White. ILLUSTRATION FROM FRONT COVER OF GEORGE ORWELL’S DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN. The of creative non-ﬁction consolation When writers of fiction turn their storytelling skills to non-fiction it can make for compelling reading writes SUZANNE EGGINS.
December January 2005