Author Archives: Erin Herbst

Nonfiction Elements in “Love Innings” by Devin Kelly

“Love Innings” is a nonfiction story written by Devin Kelly. It uses the idea of a baseball game as an objective correlative to talk about different aspects of life, including growing up and romantic relationships. The narrator sits through the innings of the game, which are used to section the piece, and grapples with inner struggles as he comes to term with his recently ended relationship. One of the strongest analogies to baseball to life, in my opinion, comes in the section “3rd Inning” when Kelly writes, “It is a game laced with imperfection, one you can only master when you realize that certain things are not in your control” and goes on to show how a well-hit ball can still be caught and a weak grounder can somehow manage to evade the fielder for a bloop single. I think that is a very important point in the piece because it connects baseball to something larger.

When talking about fact vs. nonfiction, there are certain craft elements that lend itself to a nonfiction reading. First, there are clearly given names of places, such as “Hagerstown, Maryland” in the beginning, which are characteristic of personal essays. The content of the story reads like a true narrative. The reader is supposed to, and does, believe that this narrator is sitting at this minor league baseball game with his father and his brother, and that he recently got out of a pretty serious relationship. The observing nature of the narrator also contributes to the sense of nonfiction that pervades the piece. He watches the Little League kids, the boy with his mother in front of him, and the trucker who by the end of the game has consumed six beers (we know that because the narrator has counted).

On some Facebook photo that was shared by a friend who is an English teacher, there was a mug with the saying “Creative Nonfiction: True Stories, Well Told.” At first I laughed, thinking that was such a short, concise definition that must be too easy for all the discussion we’ve spent analyzing the differences between fact, nonfiction, and fiction. However, the more I thought about this saying, the more I saw it as being a pretty decent definition. When I think of straight facts, newspaper articles come to mind, and this essay is not written like a newspaper article. If it was, it would read something like “On a June day in Maryland, the named narrator attended a local baseball game, where the home team lost (insert score) but his mind was distracted with thoughts of his ex-girlfriend…” “Love Innings isn’t written that way, even though all those events I mentioned before do take place. Creative nonfiction enters a realm where the aesthetics of the story are just as important, if not a little more so than the true facts. Sometimes facts need to be sacrificed for the sake of the piece. For example, the narrator’s mother might not have run away on the family the way she did, but including it in the story like that shows character while also establishing the importance of baseball in the narrator’s life. This example of nonfiction really is a “true story, well told” even if that is a simple definition.

Fact vs. Nonfiction in [as freedom is a breakfastfood]

“[as freedom is a breakfastfood]” is a poem written by ee cummings that embodies his eccentric style of writing, which I find incredibly interesting. Its meaning is not very straightforward, and honestly after multiple readings, I’m sure there are levels to this poem that I have yet to understand or explore. However, I believe that the craft lends itself to the ideas of fact vs. nonfiction well. For example, I think there are factual events that sparked the writing of this poem (although I’m not sure on exactly what they were- there are some thoughts that it was written about the Great Depression, but I can’t be sure about that). The concepts of the ups and downs of life are quite real, there is no dispute for that, but I believe that the style of this poem lends itself to a very whimsical reading, which I think is more closely related to nonfiction, even fiction, because there aren’t clearly defined actions with specific details.

The rhyming and slanted rhyming throughout the poem contributes to the sense of fun, as does the seemingly absurd comparisons that make up the majority of the piece. For example, “and every finger is a toe” lends itself to an almost childlike reading, putting the reader into a world of play and fantasy. This particular reading can also be supported by the made up words of “dingsters” and “dong” in the third stanza. Also, the repeated use of conjunctions throughout the poem makes me think of a kid telling a story and telling every single detail of it. The idea of childlike imagination blurs the line often blurs the line between fact and fiction, where nonfiction lies, and I think this piece mirrors that. This effect is also achieved in the typical, and in my opinion classic, style of ee cummings. The lack of punctuation or capitalization again reminds me of a younger, more naïve narrator (although the ideas and thoughts in the poem seem to come from a much older, more experienced person). There is a contrast here that I think is very natural for cummings’ poetry. There are many times where I have difficulty with it, yet he remains my favorite poet. Another technique that leads to the absurdity of this poem, leaning it away from a factual reading, is the inverted syntax. Certain lines of this poem need to be read more than once to be understood. For example, the line “or molehills are from mountains made” uses very odd grammar.

Finally, at the “line level” there is one line in this poem that is directly related to the difference between fact and nonfiction, even though it doesn’t sway me to believe that the poem is written as definitively one or the other. The second line of the poem “or truth can live with right or wrong” reminds me of a discussion we had in class. Our definitions of nonfiction included the idea that sometimes the events described didn’t actually need to have happened that exact way, but it just needed to be believable that they could have. I think that interesting idea is played with here by cummings. Of course, in such a specific discussion “truth” might not be synonymous with “fact” but nevertheless I thought it was an important line to address on this blog.