Heather's Reviews > In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction

In Fact by Lee Gutkind
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Sep 03, 09

Read in August, 2009

As with almost any collection of work by various authors, "In Fact" is rather uneven. There were a few great stories, a few terrible ones, but mostly they were in-between.

I think my biggest complaint is really a differing idea of what creative non-fiction is. Gutkind's choices include too many stories that, to me, are more memoir than anything else, but when I think of creative non-fiction I tend to think of non-fiction pieces on a particular subject, like homesteading (Jonathan Raban's "Bad Land") or medical anthropology (Anne Fadiman's "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down") that are recounted creatively and with the author's own emotions and experiences included as part of the story.

Annie Dillard's introduction is humorous, practical, and (to aspiring writers) hope-giving -- and frankly, more worthwhile than Lee Gutkind's foreword.

Some of my very favorite of the stories are, in order of appearance:
Killing Wolves, Sherry Simpson
Being Bryans, Bryan Doyle
Gray Area, Floyd Skloot
Sa'm Pèdi, Madison Smartt Bell

It's also worth noting that either Gutkind or Ntozake Shange (author: "What We Really Harvestin' Here?") made a glaring mistake. Shange's bibliographical blurb gives the meaning of her name "in Xhosa, the Zulu language," but Xhosa isn't the Zulu language -- Zulu is. The Xhosa and the Zulu are two very different ethnic groups that both happen to live in South Africa.

I finished every story in the book except for one, Robert Rodriguez's (purposefully) purple and opaque "Brown Study," which is worth skipping.
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