The Art of Creative Non-fiction: Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality by Lee Gutkind

This book sounds more impressive than it was. With a sentence like ” selling the literature of reality” embossed on the front cover I grabbed the book with delight, thinking that I could turn my daily routines (two-minute oats microwaved with mushy banana sprinkled with sugar brekky) into literary gold with Mr Gutkind leading the way.

And really Lee Gutkind, editor of the Creative Non-fiction journal, I had faith in you man and you let me down. The book is broken into lots of chapters which I assume are to create some sort of structure but turn into a bit of a maze, weird thoughts jumbled into what Gutkind believes would be helpful to the reader. Like:

“If you’re trying to sell a piece and it isn’t selling. Maybe it’s not very good.” – Umm thanks? The book is crammed with examples of creative nonfiction, a huge portion of which are extracts from Gutkind’s previously published books. This makes sense to convey writing devices and to explain why he wrote a certain way etc but these examples are not used for an in-depth analysis rather just as a book filler.

The book is written in the second person which is common for a self-help book but is annoying never the less. “You” targets the writer, the disciple wanting to learn. I wanted to chuck the book at the wall. Gutkind is not completely fruitless his suggestions for immersion writing “think local act global” and explore what mysteries and stories lurk in your own backyard as a starting place – his book Many Sleepless nights about the Pittsburgh Hospital home of the largest organ transplant unit in the world – was a good example of this.

But by the end of the book the overall american-ness of creative non-fiction was getting on my nerves. I love non-fiction but there is a lack of variety of nationalities. I think I need to breathe in some Australian literary magazines and newspapers to find something I can personally relate to at a cultural and national level.  But don’t worry about me, I’ve got my Australian fiction covered. I’m reading Cate Kennedy now and she’s such a joy.



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2 responses to “The Art of Creative Non-fiction: Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality by Lee Gutkind

  1. This made me laugh – especially the helpful advice part of maybe it’s not very good if it’s not selling. So much of the writing advice out there seems like that – full of very common sense things that people already know. I think I’m just tired of all the advice. It’s better to just write.

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