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Nonfiction as Autopsy: In Defense of Self-Interest

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Jacob Littlezz Yellowstone

I have several friends from various parts of the literary world who joke (with varying degrees of sincerity) about how nonfiction writers are “narcissists” or “navel-gazers” or even “cheaters” (announcing before you tell a story that it is true ratchets up the emotional investment and is a good way to disguise weak material or poor craft—or so a friend once told me). Aside from the numerous problems with these assertions, the charge of “self-involved” seems particularly hard to shake. How to explain a twenty-page story with oneself as the main character? Or even worse(!), a full-length book? (A beloved former poetry professor used to call them ME-moirs)

The obvious counter is to point out the hypocrisy of the assertion. What short story, novel, or poem has ever been anything other than the author exploring their own obsessions? The material may be different, but the…

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