Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Recommended: Nonfiction (and Agates)

I don't have any personal pictures of agates. I'm not sure I've ever found one, though I live on north shore of Lake Superior, where they are legion. So here's a link, if you want to see what they look like: lake superior agate .


I do have lots of pictures of driftglass, however. A recent collection:



I bring up agates because the article I'm recommending, Karen Babine's "A Taxonomy of Nonfiction; Or the Pleasures of Precision," from LitHub, begins with agate-hunting on the Lake Superior shoreline.


And here is what she writes about: 


I’m fascinated by the idea of a taxonomy in nonfiction, of order, an ever-expanding vocabulary to articulate what the page is doing. I’m not in pursuit of definition so much as I am seeking articulation.


In the article, Babine discusses various ways to differentiate works of nonfiction, in a hierarchy. Not that she posits that she's created "an answer," just simply a way of thinking about nonfiction. (Another fun concept: the difference between precision and accuracy.) 


She also describes how she uses this taxonomy with classes, mostly to create a shared vocabulary to use while workshopping, instead of definitively classifying student work. 


I find it useful to think about writing in this way, especially when I'm revising essays. Am I attempting to convey something in a form, shape, or mode that doesn't suit the subject? Having these words helps me examine my own work to see where it doesn't match my intent. 


It's easy to spend a lot of time reading articles at LitHub, an activity with downsides. But mostly, time spent there--as with this article--is well worth it.