When the National Book Awards Longlist for Nonfiction was released this week with only one woman author out of 10 nominees (and only one person of color), I thought, wow, the jury (two of whom are women) must have completely missed the increasingly vociferous discussions over the past few years about the lack of gender equity in the literary world. Then I read the Slate essay in which Katy Waldman calls nonfiction the ‘patriarch of the book world.’ As the author of a forthcoming nonfiction book, a biography, I have become aware of how male-dominated the field of biography is. But why all of nonfiction?
I think writing about the real world, as we live in it today, is very difficult; many writers try to escape it. But then what books will be the classics from our generation? Which of them will be the commentaries on our lot?
Close writing really is an amazing thing. Consider that this essay right now has been narrated in the third person, and yet there is no question as to what Clark’s opinions are. There was never any confusion over ‘who’ was asserting the statements made above.
I suspect there may be two essential audiences for this type of book. The first are the Sebald enthusiasts, who have gobbled down everything he has written; and the second are those who are genuinely interested in the artists Sebald explores. While the book may have some revelations for the latter group, it seems more likely the Sebald devotees will find more to like.
Ever since Pulphead, we can’t get enough of John Jeremiah Sullivan, so we’re happy to hear he’s at work on his next book, The Prime Minister of Paradise. Sullivan will tell the story of Christian Priber, a German American who tried to establish a utopia in 18th century South Carolina. “This man, he really represented the height of the enlightenment at the time,” Sullivan said during a recent interview at Notre Dame. No word on an official release date yet, but it’s already being optioned for film by Scott Rudin.
I’m an aspirational reader when it comes to nonfiction: ‘Oh, I’m interested in the topic!’ I’ll say, super enthusiastically, but in the end I’ll barely manage to slog through the introduction.