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Creek Running North
January 12, 2004
"I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I'd half-awaken. He'd stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with roses."
Annie Dillard opened her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek with that last paragraph, a compelling and literally visceral image. It was the first paragraph of hers I ever read, excerpted in a review in some edition of The Whole Earth Catalog or other back almost thirty years ago. I’m sure I’m not the only person who felt motivated — even at the tender age of fourteen — to keep reading, based on nothing more than that image.
A few years back, Dillard admitted that she had borrowed the image from one of her former graduate students, with that person's consent. The cat wasn’t hers, the breasts covered in bloody cat prints belonged to someone else.
What does the writer owe her audience? It is not possible to portray accurately and fully, in words,even something so small and simple as a grain of sand. You need to leave something out. The writer’s task is to determine what to include, and which of many disparate elements to leave out of any essay. To wit: I pulled weeds in my garden the other day, having forsaken the hoe. The rains had loosened the soil enough that I might kill whole weeds rather than chopping them off to regrow. About the twentieth pull dislodged a salamander, an Ensatina, stunned at the sudden light.
To tell this story do I mention the species of weed grasses I pulled? The fact that I weeded preparatory to planting red-flowering verbascums, or that I took pains not to harm the irises already showing six inches of leaf above the soil, or that the shed behind me is only partly painted? I foreshortened maybe twenty minutes of weeding into two sentences, and then a sudden second of amphibian takes up half that time in the text. It’s a process of selection: determining (first) the story I want to tell and (second) which elements of the story must be told. The readers will tire of every story from my back yard starting in the Miocene deep sea trench from which came the bedrock under my house. The classic admonition is to write one tenth of what you know: I think that's too loose.
But those sins, if sins they be, are sins of omission. Pilgrim is billed as a work of non-fiction, but the very first sentence contains a declaration that is not, in fact, true. As CL Rawlins pointed out in an article in Northern Light a few years back, if Dillard had written that not a tomcat but an actual person leapt in through her window and kneaded her flesh with bloody hands, she’d be facing a lawsuit.
Rawlins also takes Ed Abbey to task in that essay over his writing of Desert Solitaire — written while married with a small child. To me, the example of Abbey is closer to the All-Encompassing Gray Area of doubt. Reading some chapters of DS one has the impression that no one else is there with Abbey in his trailer at Arches, while in fact Rita and Joshua Abbey spent some weeks there with him. And then there’s the title.
But much of my writing takes place with Becky nearby, and I don’t always mention her. I can imagine writing an essay based on a trip we’ve taken together and editing out, for reasons of emphasis or style, any mention of her presence. It’s even easier for me to imagine curmudegonly Abbey doing this. And that title wasn’t Abbey’s doing. His working title was Desert Solecisms, and a book editor objected.
Still and all, it makes me itch. Rawlins has his own advice to the natural history writer, from his website:
The most important part of natural history or nature writing is to be true to what you write about. First, it means being accurate about how things look and act, and giving the best possible account to your readers, regardless of whether you're a scientist or a poet. Second, it means being emotionally honest, for instance not claiming to be a hero if you were really scared. Since nature isn't always a fast-action drama, you can learn to write about what happens in a way that makes it interesting. This is called style.
Nothing in there about claiming to have owned someone else’s cat.
The thing that frosts me about Dillard’s cat is not that some other people have different ideas of appropriate standards for truth in writing about nature — or about anything for that matter. It’s this: I told the salamander I needed to move him to a safer spot, away from my clumsy weed pulling. After a moment’s hesitation, he crawled into my outstretched palm and looked at me, as if expectantly. I moved him a few feet to a hole at the base of the cherry tree. A few minutes later, I worried I hadn’t put him in a safe enough spot: I picked up the weeds I’d lain over him, placed my gloved hand knuckles down on the soil, and he climbed into my palm once again. A life lived open to the world holds more moments like this than could fit into any library. What need is there to embellish or enhance? What need is there — not to put too fine a point on it — to lie? Why chop clumsily with that dull hoe when the stories lift themselves out of the ground by the roots, or walk into your open hands of their own accord?
Posted by Chris Clarke at January 12, 2004 04:42 PM
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Excerpt: It's still cold here in New Hampshire, perfect weather for sitting inside and engaging in intellectual debate. So instead of walking and blogging, yesterday and this morning I checked out (and jumped into) the discussions on a couple of blogs...
Weblog: Hoarded Ordinaries
Tracked: January 15, 2004 07:46 AM
For me the importance of this kind of honesty is strictly (well, not strictly. Say almost all) personal. Half of why I write is to watch the lies blossom, and uproot them. I don't care much about whether Dillard is lying about the cat; I don't know either of them; can't see it matters much. But observing my own attempts to edit or obscure reality -- that's invaluable, that's information I can't forgo. And the only way I (this is just me, not anyone else) can make that observation is to insist that I never write a lie. (I don't always succeed, even at that. There are those tricky lies of proportion and selection.)Posted by: Dale at January 13, 2004 02:24 AM
The issue of Dillard's cat is wonderfully complex. I think a huge part of the problem is generic. Dillard has repeatedly recoiled at the use of the term "nature writing" to describe her prose, and I think even "nonfiction" isn't a proper fit. My battered copy of _Pilgrim_ has the category tag "Literature" on the back; her recent book _For the Time Being_ is labeled "Literature/Philosophy."
Literature lies all the time (and perhaps philosophy does, too). Thoreau lied: he lived at Walden Pond for two years, and _Walden_ compacts that into one. If you see (or *want* to see) _Pilgrim_ as being nonfiction, Dillard's lies are a problem. But since she originally envisioned the book as being a work of theology, on one level that cat is nothing but an exemplum, a symbolic story to prove a point.
What I find interesting is the way that readers crave autobiography. That paragraph wouldn't have the same power if it were told in the third or even the second person: we want to hear the author, an "eye-witness." So we feel betrayed when we discover that the narrator isn't the author, that both the narrator & the things narrated (e.g. the sucked frog) are lies, or at least elaborated-upon truths.
Virginia Woolf has a wonderful line in _A Room of One's Own_ where she says that "I" is a convenient term for a being who doesn't exist. I think this applies to Dillard's narrator: the narrator & the things that happen to that narrator are fictions. It just happens that some of those fictions mirror actual events.
Maybe Dillard should include the usual cinematic caveat: "All similarities to actual persons or events are purely coincidental."
At risk of being labled a heretic, I must confess I never found anything Dillard wrote to be especially compelling. Personal taste aside, I do resent the elevation of certain books like PATC to the status of classics simply because a bunch of English profs like them. Of course your average English teacher is going to prefer Annie Dillard to (say) Howard Ensign Evans! I think it's worth disputing whether Dillard's books should be considered nature writing at all. Concerning the issue at hand here, the fact is that the division between fiction and nonfiction is very well established for modern prose (poetry and song lyrics are a different matter altogether). By passing off fictions for truth Dillard is violating the reader's trust.Posted by: Dave at January 13, 2004 06:27 PM
Wow, good meaty post, Chris.
I am put in mind right away of Gardner's _On Moral Fiction_. Of course _Pilgrim_ isn't fiction--or is it? (What, exactly, people, is the definition of "Creative Non-Fiction"? I was asked to define it the other day and found myself floundering...) I think it does matter, actually, that Dillard presents this cat as hers. Because she's introducing herself to her readers in this paragraph--like you, Chris, I was drawn into the book because of it--its placement in the text is supposed to define, somehow, who she is. Not as a writer, but as a person. (Because it's that KIND of BOOK.) It wouldn't matter if this book weren't presented as a searingly honest (if somewhat self-absorbed) self-portrait.
(Not only did Thoreau not spend just a year in Walden; he also had family and friends bring food along because, well, he was busy writing and pondering. He was about as self-sufficient as Picasso with his serial women. The difference with Picasso is that he never made any claims to self-sufficiency.)
Your salamander? No, you needn't have mentioned it. No, you needn't mention Becky or Zeke. Sometimes these things aid the narrative, make it more interesting, and sometimes they get in the way. But I do believe that each choice is somehow a moral choice. This is a gut-level belief, not based on anything anyone's said here or in the great beyond. Like it's a gut-level belief for me that Dillard's paragraph isn't quite, well, on. I think Dave's right to say that it violates the reader's trust. The *intent* is to deceive, which is what renders it morally questionable.
(Thanks, in passing, for mentioning the salamander, and thanks also for finding it a safe place to hide.)
Finally, I have never even heard of a nature writer who was happy with the label. It's too parochial. It's like being labelled a "regionalist": sudden death. Gary Snyder et al. shrank away from it--visibly, wincing away from the microphone--when it was put to them during McPhee's visit to Davis in the fall.Posted by: Pica at January 14, 2004 07:05 AM
Thanks for this excellent post, Chris. Dillard's misrepresentation has always felt wrong to me, and efforts to justify it strike me as slimy. I think of what I write under the general heading "creative non-fiction", and non-fiction means just that: NON. In other words, true.
What I liked most was the fully-contained vignette of the salamander. If I want, *I* can add the coldness of its skin, the smell of the earth, the touch of those tiny feet; style is first of all a matter of choices and decisions, but style is supposed to serve the writer's purpose. Here, by paring the incident down to the truth it contained for you, that truth can emerge like the living jewel that it is for me.Posted by: beth at January 14, 2004 11:47 AM
Thanks to everyone for their eloquent comments, on whichever side of this issue. A couple reactions:
I think saying PATC is a work of philosophy or theology rather than nature writing makes the offense worse. What could possibly be more important to philosophy or theology than a sound foundation? If you have a philosophy you want to express, and you realize the best way to do so is to begin with a lie, what does that say about the philosophy?
Burningbird quotes a commenter on Dillard:
"But I understand why she created this story. What could better bring together the child and her wonder and acceptance with an example of wildness, of nature's violence blended with beauty. Sometimes to tell the truth you have to lie a little."
This Westmorelandian sentiment gives me the creeps.
A few years back, I wrote an essay on how false portrayals of nature by the Walt Disney Corporation shaped a generation's attitudes toward nature. Probably the most famous aspect of this is the story of the lemmings, who in the movie White Wilderness were portrayed as migrating through the frozen tundra and leaping off cliffs to their doom. Everyone now knows that lemmings do this. Unfortunately, lemmings don't really do this. The filmmakers made it up.
(I need a straw man as a literary device about here, so here goes. But at least I let y'all know I was doing it.)
I can imagine the above-quoted person saying "But I understand why Disney created the story. What could better illustrate the unfathomable workings of the wild world, the seeming irrationality of nature, and the expendability of small animals on the ecological scale? The cliff leap is obviously a metaphor for the thousands of lemmings that lose their lives to starvation and predation and disease so that a few might perpetuate the species. Sometimes to tell the truth..."
Except it didn't happen. Out of dramatic license, Disney planted misinformation in the minds of essentially the entire English-speaking world.
We live in a world in which the natural world is treated as a matter of opinion, as if the truth of global climate change can be settled in an online poll, where the whole body of evidence in favor of evolution is considered of equal weight to a much-translated chapter in an old, old book, where expert observers of the natural world are dismissed from their posts because what they say doesn't quite fit into the story powerful people want to tell. The last thing Nature needs from us is more prevarication in the name of "literature," even if the main thing we learn from Dillard's cat is, well, not to trust Dillard.
One other point: There is an immediacy to first-person recounting. But there are other ways to provide that immediacy, which is in any event hardly the primary goal in writing. If I'm writing a story about walking my dog, adding a fictitious encounter with an orange alligator would make the story far more compelling and urgent. Anyone can make a story urgent by making stuff up.
Craft, on the other hand, implies finding the urgency and immediacy in what really happened. A writer will write within the limitations of the piece, whether topic or scansion or rhyme... or ethical obligation not to misrepresent facts.Posted by: Chris Clarke at January 14, 2004 02:41 PM
GREAT discussion here: I'm seeing great points raised all around! Although I agree with various folks' points that Dillard violates her reader's trust, this is supposed to be NONfiction, etc, I still find myself defending Dillard's right as an "artist" to bend particular truths in the name of a larger general truth.
Most modern folks would critique (or even poke fun of) fundamentalist readings of the Bible: how unsophisticated, we'd say, for people to insist that everything in the Bible "really" happened! Everyone knows (nudge, nudge, wink) that all those stories are merely myths created to illustrate a larger point about divinity...
I think Dillard is doing something similar: she's making myths. We as readers, however, crave reality: we WANT it to be real! We WANT to believe that it all happened! We WANT to believe, period. We want Truth to be Truth and Lies to be Lies. We can't admit that sometimes the truth is mixed with lies, that lies can lead to truth...
I think that one of the main "points" of _Pilgrim_ is that looks are deceiving because GOD is deceiving. Just when we think we understand God, he does something entirely inconceivable. How better to illustrate this point than to play some tricks on your reader?
The opening paragraph is just the first of many questionable happenings in the text. What about Dillard's description of the huge tree with clothing in it? Did that "really" happen, or is it a bit of Magic Realism akin to the flaming angel the cat captures in _Holy the Firm_ or the erupting typewriter in _The Writing Life_?
I wrote a *long* (yeah, no kidding) paper on this topic of "invisibility & illusion" in _Pilgrim_: if anyone is masochistic enough to want to read it, you can find it online at
To summarize, though, I argue there that Dillard spends as much time & detail describing invisible things as visible ones. Eudora Welty was right in saying that _Pilgrim_ is a "meditation...about *seeing*," except that Dillard's "vision" isn't limited to visible phenomena. This isn't nature writing: if anything, it's "supernatural" writing!
I guess I feel the need to defend Dillard because this notion of artistic liberty is dear to me. I'm no pornographer, but I recognize the need to defend the free speech rights of people who are: as soon as I allow the government or anyone do say what is or isn't permissible, my freedom as an artist is compromised. Similarly, I believe that writers of "creative nonfiction" should be allowed to take certain liberties with the truth as long as the ultimate "point" is a truthful one.
In other words, Dillard didn't ACTUALLY see a giant water bug suck a frog, but the behavior she described is true to fact (at least I think it is...) It DIDN'T happen, but it COULD have. Same is true with the cat. It didn't happen to Dillard, but it could have. The "letter" isn't true, but the "spirit" is. If we acknowledge that "Dillard's narrator" isn't "Dillard herself," we allow room for the CREATIVE part of creative nonfiction.
In my non-blog creative nonfiction, I never say I saw something I didn't actually see. But in the course of revision, I might change the exact time when I saw something: I might say that I saw something yesterday that I actually saw last week. Some birders would cry foul (no pun intended): it's important to keep meticulous records of sightings, so changing the date of a sighting is wrong. But since I'm aiming to write literature, not strict natural history, I argue that my prose is faithful to ultimate truths: if I saw a redpoll on Dec 31, I could have seen one on Jan 1. This is "true." But to say I saw a flamingo in NH is not: not only did it NOT happen, it isn't PROBABLE that it happened.
This, in my mind, is the difference between writers of "creative nonfiction" and the famous "nature fakers" of the 19th century. As long as nature writers remain true to what COULD happen, I have no problem with small liberties. When a nature writer starts describing things that couldn't have happened (i.e. mother quails sitting their chicks down & "teaching" them about foxes), this is a problem.
I'm not sure this clarifies anything, really: since I see valid points on all sides of the debate, I'm entirely willing to be proven wrong by any & all of you! :-) I just think we lose something if we make "narrative truth" an absolute, unmoveable thing. I personally wouldn't take the liberties Dillard did in _Pilgrim_, but I admire her artistry & defend her right in doing so.
Dillard has always seemed to me to effect the role of a modern day shaman; she goes into this sublime trance and these otherworldly words come spilling out, with an ability to glimpse secrets and then somehow make them all connect in this wondrous necklace that you just can't help but recognize as fundamentally true. These trances of hers must resemble the disconnection from her immediate surroundings in much the same way as shamans chanting while possessed by the spirits. She simply is alone when she writes... her mind is on a lone journey in some alternate reality, and ultimately she returns with gifts from the gods.Posted by: butuki at January 15, 2004 09:09 PM
Heh. cf Joseph Campbell talking about the Shaman's queer relationship with his or her community: intentional deception living cheek-by-jowl with authentic visionary experience. (*Primitive Mythology*)Posted by: koshtra at January 16, 2004 05:02 AM
So then here's a question for those folks who find larger truth has been revealed through Dillard's use of a non-truth: what is that larger truth? And how does revealing that truth require the falsehood be told?
Don't get me wrong here: It's one thing for Dillard to have borrowed a friend's story and retold it as her own. Not something I'd do without flagging it a bit more, but there's a long tradition of borrowing other people's stories and recasting them to feature yourself - or a friend, as in the case of much urban folklore. And such stories are a wonderful, endlessly mutable part of our culture. I think Dillard is over a line of propriety by indulging in the practice in PATC, but it's certainly no mortal sin.
But saying that the cat paragraph, as written, was a necessary element in some larger literary-philosophical mission? I don't buy it. There's ALWAYS another route.
(Which is not to say I couldn't be persuaded, and Miguel and Lorianne are more likely than most to be able to sway me.)
As regards the definition of "creative non-fiction": most definitions I've seen agree on two main points.
1) It is at least potentially entertaining to read. The writer's voice infiltrates the exposition of fact and event.
2) It is not fiction.
Here's one useful entry-level guide by Barbara Lounsberry, from her work The Literature of Reality:
Guidelines for Writing Creative Non-Fiction
1. Research thoroughly.
2. Cultivate relationships with your subjects over a period of time to create trust, absorb information, note change, and know individuals so you can describe their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes correctly.
3. Never invent or change facts or events. The truth is stranger than fiction.
4. Avoid composite[ character]s.
5. Aim for a clear style with rhythm, "texture," color, and a dramatic pace.
6. Write for real people to enrich their lives.
7. Write about real events and people to make them come alive and record them.
8. Have faith in the value and importance of human beings and human events...
I'd say the issue of genre is pretty crucial here. ("pretty crucial"? well, we're in a blog comment here, so, ok..)It depends on what the primary subject of the book is. Is it nature and the creatures and events in nature? Or is it the writer's emotional involvement and experience with nature? If it's the first, then the writer is obligated to write about what actually happened, not about what is probable or imagined. If the subject is the second, then I would say different rules apply. Imagined events and relationships are as legitmate as actual ones. Is it up to the author to say explicitly what the subject is? Or is it up to the reader to figure that out? But, what if the author's work appears to be of one kind but is really another? Isn't that part of the confusion here?Posted by: susan at January 16, 2004 10:38 AM
Following up on Susan's comment: what do we do if the piece in question is in the second category but masquerades as the first? And is Dillard's writing doing this, or is this a problem of the reader's perception?
I wonder, too, if the picture looks different if we question the definition of "nature" operating here; is the writer part of his or her own subject, or an outsider observing a subject from a distance? What _should_ we expect of people who write in the "nature writing" genre? (I'm suspending judgement about whether Dillard is or not; I haven't read enough of her work.) I agree with Chris' point that the non-human elements of the narrative are distorted enough without inventing new stories about them, but where does the human narrator fit in? Are nature-writing authors "nature" themselves?
(I hope that makes sense!)Posted by: Rana at January 16, 2004 10:51 AM
Although it was a little startling to read the post about Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which I last read in the late 70's, I have to say that her writing had an enormous effect on me in terms of my relating to the natural world. It inspired me to reach for intense experiences when I am alone in a natural setting. Had I known she created/appropriated the story/ies, I might not have tried to reach for that level of intense seeing, but who knows, as an avid reader, and wanting experiences like that, I would have encountered some other writer who could have also inspired me in the same or similar way.Posted by: basha at January 16, 2004 11:01 AM
Oh, I don't think the deception and the vision have any necessary or causal connection. Campbell's point is just that visionaries are by nature alienated from their communities and often have no scruples about deceiving them.Posted by: dale at January 16, 2004 11:35 AM
Fork. This is the THIRD attempt. It's getting shorter, maybe it's getting better.
People who live in a glamourous world are forgiven, even encouraged their glitter. Artists, musicians, performers embody what they pretend to be or risk disappointing those who follow them.
In contrast, anyone who attempts to write about nature and authenticity had damn well be natural and authentic.
When the focus moves from "how fascinating nature is" to "how special I am," I turn away.
Thanks on behalf of the salamander, Chris. Or to be more honest, on behalf of myself, really, because I want the salamander alive and well, even if it was a suicidally depressed salamander who crawled onto your hand in a bid to end it all.Posted by: JoAnne Schmitz at January 16, 2004 04:22 PM
When the focus moves from "how fascinating nature is" to "how special I am," I turn away.
even if it was a suicidally depressed salamander who crawled onto your hand in a bid to end it all.
That's a possibility that had not occurred to me. Here I was reading the whole encounter as one of those sublime encounters with the other, and instead maybe he was trying to jump in front of the salamander equivalent of a speeding truck.
No matter all our technology and growing libraries, we will never know the realitiy of another creature, will we? It is even difficult to determine if that stranger sitting beside us, picking their ears and flicking the contents across the room, is truly intelligent, like we are. Until that salamander stands up (standing up seems to be a necessary ingredient in the soup of sentience) and announces their intention, we really can never say with certainty whether or not an awareness of self and surrounding exists. Though if that salamander reached behind and brought out two frosty glasses of beer and offered me one... well maybe I might change my tune.Posted by: butuki at January 16, 2004 09:56 PM
Thanks for the post. I'd never thought about that before.Posted by: Duckling at January 17, 2004 04:17 AM
Great stuff, Chris, and great comments!
Chris and I were talking about this episode late last year, and it's a matter that's close to my heart right now. I was asked to write a book about a specific time in my life, and real people who were there with me. I'm not sure how to do that if I tell the truth, without betraying people, and if I bend the truth, then what is it I'm writing?
I haven't decided what I'm going to do, but insofar as Annie's great indiscretion, I'm coming down on the side of the emotional integrity of the work. The event happened, and the story worked (apparently, as I've never read the book) to illustrate whatever point she was making, or to set the stage for what was to follow. I feel okay about it. Without getting too technical about genres, the "creative" in Creative Non-Fiction allows for leeway, in my thinking.
If Annie hadn't told us that story, who would have? It has impacted people, inspired them to read and to write, and to see.
I haven't read the book, so maybe I'll use a hypothetical example. If Loren Eiseley usurped a friend's cave story in 'The Night Country,' I don't think I'd feel betrayed. He pulled that story out of the universe of stories that have happened to us humans, and put it into a context that made it sing, and where it would not only be found, but would penetrate into his reader's dark cave-souls. I think that's the writer's job, and her primary obligation.Posted by: Lisa Thompson at January 18, 2004 01:20 PM
Again, this is a GREAT conversation. Regardless of who's right, who proved what, etc, I'm loving the fact that there are so many people who care (articulately!) about what Dillard did in that first paragraph...
Just a quick response to Chris's question several comments above: "So then here's a question for those folks who find larger truth has been revealed through Dillard's use of a non-truth: what is that larger truth? And how does revealing that truth require the falsehood be told?"
In my opinion, the "larger truth" is that it's ALL made up. We're fretting about whether Dillard really had a cat, whether she saw the waterbug eat a frog, etc, when I think the point of the book is that looks are deceiving, so NATURE is deceiving. It's all a great big magic show, but we all are so busying ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the pyrotechnics that we "miss" that God or SOMEONE is pulling the wool over our eyes.
Dillard illustrates this by pointing again & again to examples of natural optical illusions AND tales of a trickster God, a being who appears one way only to pull the rug out from under believers right when they think they've "gotten" God. (Which means I'm way overdue for having the rug pulled out...) ;-)
This notion that both God & nature are deceiving--that it's all one big trick--is inherently "anti" nature writing: it goes against everything nature writing is supposed to be. Nature writing is supposed to be "true," "factual," even "scientific." It's supposed to stick primarily to what is seen and known, with only occasional forays into less tangible stuff. Dillard flips the equation, focusing on philosophical matters & using nature of a symbol of how our eyes are often fooled by appearances. This isn't very "scientific."
I think Dillard's consciously writing AGAINST the romantic tradition that says God is beautiful because nature is beautiful. Nature in _Pilgrim_ is sublime, perhaps, but it ain't beautiful: it's a scary, violent show. So if you take your religion from "nature," brace yourself for what you're going to see because it's probably going to surprise & horrify you (kind of like a bloody, urine spattered cat landing on your chest).
It isn't nature writing, and I'd be willing to say it isn't creative nonfiction, either. It's a long literary essay written by a woman who's said time & time again in interviews that she's a writer of fiction & that art is lies.