Thursday, November 17, 2011

Old fiction...that could also be nonfiction?

I found this old assignment I did in a 200 level fiction course. It's a not very serious (or is it) how to. I reread it, decided that I still like it, and spruced it up slightly.

Because of my last post regarding stretching the definitions, I have also decided that how to's are nonfiction.

I wrote this particular piece in the fiction mindset. It's content is not meant to be taken seriously, and I cannot verify for sure that following everything in this how to will work because I've never tried it. However, Several things in here are based on what my roommates have actually done AND I am also not claiming that I have tried these steps. Unless, you read that in as an implication of all how to's. BUT these steps very well could work...and I think they most likely would. (let me know if you try it out). And I'm sure that many tested how to's don't work for everyone following them. So, it's fiction. It's nonfiction. It's both? Neither? Coming across a writing that is either both or neither is new territory for me. I think it could be successfully argued either way. It probably goes back to how far you are willing to stretch away from fact or proven fact? or documented fact? and still claim nonfiction.

Anyway, here is what I wrote:

Get Rid Of A Roommate, How To.
It’s better to start out slow with normal, smaller annoyances. Start in the kitchen. Cook big meals without cleaning up after yourself. If someone says something to you about the crumbs they found on the counter, brush the crumbs onto the floor for them to step on. If they complain about crumbs on the floor, suggest that they vacuum. Leave milk in the fridge for long periods of time. Act like you don’t notice the smell.  Eat their food. Tell them someone else did it. Call them a lying, food-stealing whore. Enjoy the fight.
Make desperate coughing noises in the kitchen. Don’t cover your mouth. Leave used tissues everywhere. Tell them you have tuberculoses. If they aren’t sympathetic and say that you’re gross, call them racist. It doesn’t matter if you’re white or not.
Play loud music in the middle of the night. Take out the batteries of the smoke detector so that it chirps. When your roommate replaces the batteries, take them out again. Comment on how the batteries keep disappearing. Blame it on somebody. When  they say they don’t know what you’re talking about call them a lying, battery-stealing whore. Enjoy the fight.
When it’s cleaning day and your roommates request your help, tell them you cleaned last time and you refuse to be their maid. Suggest that there is a mouse running around because no one cleans up after themselves. Buy a mouse and set it loose. Name it Mini Me. Feed it your roommate’s food.
On the weekends, only talk in a Kermit the frog voice. On Wednesdays, talk like Yoda. Leave the heat off when it’s snowing out. Walk around with a huge coat on. When your roommates ask if anyone is cold, tell them you don’t know what their talking about and suggest that they dress warmer. If they turn up the heat, turn it back off and tell them it bothers your tuberculosis.
Get a tape of a crying baby. Play it randomly three times a week. Tell them you have a baby daughter. Never let them see her.  Get a pet, but only if they are allergic. Tell them your grandma left it to you when she died and you can’t get rid of it. Let the pet poop on their rug. Don’t clean up after it.
            Set your alarm for weird times and leave it outside their door. Tell them you don’t know how to turn it off. Let it beep for an hour. If they leave their doors unlocked, invite your boyfriend over and do dirty things in their room. Don’t clean up after yourself. Have parties on week days. Make extra-loud vomiting noises at four in the morning, again at five. Clog all the toilets. Pretend you don’t speak English. If they try to argue that you do speak English, call them racist.
            When their mom comes to visit tell her you love having so-and-so as a roommate, but you’re a little concerned about their frequent drinking habit and drug use. When their phone rings, answer it. Tell the caller that your roommate is in jail and will no longer be accepting calls. Put their phone down the food disposal. Tell them you don’t know why the sink is broken. When their significant other comes over, exclaim, “wow how many boyfriends/(girlfriends) do you have?” Then walk away. Enjoy the fight. When it’s time to pay the rent, offer to turn in their check for them. Throw it away. When they ask what happened, act confused. Call them an irresponsible, rent-avoiding whore.
 Look sad when they leave. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pushing the Definitions

           I’ve been contemplating what constitutes as creative nonfiction and what can constitute as creative nonfiction. 

It’s already been established that creative nonfiction (writing?) 

  • Must be written
The fact that it must be written I think can be pushed…probably because of my learning about multimodal forms of communication and alternative forms of the “traditional written essay” via DR Brown. If audio books can count because they were written first, then audio essays that were not written first might as well count too, right? And that’s as far as I’m going to get into that.

  •  The work represents an accurate account of actual people and places that really exist (can also be pushed slightly if you want to get finicky. But for the most part this seems like a must to me)

  • The work is art (has an awareness of language, sensibility, and complexity)

So how far can we push art? We can take out dialogue and it’s still art. We can take out setting and it’s still art. We can take out characters and it’s still art. Can we take out climax? Can we take out plot? Can we take out the series of events that makes it a story in the first place and still call it a work of creative nonfiction?

                Can it be one sentence? Chekhov's father would say yes.

                Can it be one word?

                Can we reduce an entire work of creative nonfiction to a single word and call it art the way that an artist can reduce an entire painting to a red dot in the middle of a canvas and call it art.

If a urinal can be placed in a museum among “readymades” and be called art, then why can’t a single-word creative nonfiction shake the world in the same way?

And if one word can capture the sensibility, complexity, and the awareness of language that constitutes art, then what word would that be?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.  

            In other news, while contemplating pushing the edges of definitions for creative nonfiction, I’ve written what I think constitutes creative nonfiction in the form of a poem. This is an “I am from” poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or have any specific form; the only rule in creating one of these is that each line is supposed to start with the words ‘I am from’ but I suppose these things can be pushed too. I encourage others to try it out. Here's what I have:

I am from The Institutions

I am from a town full of family, recently vacated;
I am the only one left
I am from culture passed through generations where, in mine, I'm the oldest
I am from five schools and four mascots that I wear on my clothes
I am from classes of fiction, academia, and theory
I am from church services and values I uphold whether I consent to them or not

I am from Youth

I am from the chase of giggling children into piles of leaves before boo boos are kissed and naps begin
I am from basement bars and pool table games and a dusty keyboard I never learned to play
I am from old couches and the smell and lights of real Christmas trees
I am from where we stopped our games in the woods to catch the breeze
I am from pizza shared and from drinks I’m not allowed to pour or they will end up in my lap
I am from failed attempts of the cliché concept of love,
and from fear and the hope that we got it right this time
I am from pixilized text that replaced the pen where words are heard