"An author working in good faith can't win at this game. If she is forced to confirm that her material is autobiographical, then she risks forfeiting both the privacy and the power of transfiguration that fiction promises. If she denies it, then she surrenders a badge of authenticity that she may never have wished to claim in the first place, and lays herself open to accusations that she is appropriating the pain of others."by Author Jessica Winter, reposted from the New York Times, March 14, 2021.
I have decided to repost some of the newer articles I find about autofiction in celebration of my new Autofiction workshop that kicked off Sunday June 20th with a wonderful group of participants from across the U.S.A. The first concept to internalize about autofiction is the author continuously switches between the memoir and fiction lanes, borrowing as she pleases from each one, particularly in terms of reader expectations. Yes, readers have expectations both of fiction and of memoir. Once you have that internalized, you're already well on your way. These three articles will help you on your journey into the world of autofiction. There are other, older articles on my site for you to explore.
This first article written by Brooke Warner ( Jan 8, 2021, Publisher's Weekly) is particulary interesting as it is written from what I would call a pro-memoir position and explores the balance between fiction and memoir that I also stress in my workshop. I also chose it because it mentions Rachel Cusk, one of the authors on my workshop reading list. In addition, it introduces something I've published in a previous article about autofiction: women's writings are taken less seriously than men's. This seems to be a reoccuring theme in articles about memoir and autofiction that I've researched online. I'd love to hear what you think about this. Do you find this claim to be accurate?
A second article, titled "Our Autofiction Fixation" by Jessica Winter published in the New York Times (March 14, 2021) is a worthwhile read for anyone with autofiction on their radar screen. It references another author on my class list, Alexander Chee (highly recommend). Here, Winter reflects on our assumptions about writing in general, namely that whatever the author wrote actually happened, even if the label on the book is fiction and more importantly, if the events didn't happen, the author risks losing her stamp of authenticity so many modern readers crave. She questions how authors are meant to use the inherent powers in fiction writing (namely in my opinion, to write about what we could not express otherwise, which is precisely the purpose fiction serves). She goes on to explore this question: Are fiction authors forced to either own the events in our works as historically accurate or accept the accusation that we are borrowing from others' experiences, and are, therefore, stealing from others?
Switching gears, in a third article from the Los Angeles Review of Books, Andrew Koenig (March 17, 2021) drives through the continued popularity of autofiction vs. the ascendancy of the character-driven novel (as opposed to Brooke Warner above, who offers a view of autofiction from the memoir lane). This book review dwells on the ethics of novel reading for the most part, but also mentions the function of a novelist vs. the writer of autofiction. It underscores the liberty autofiction offers vs. fiction writing.
I welcome any feedback on these articles. Do they help you with your understanding of autofiction and your place as a reader or writer of this genre?
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