Author Archives: Noah Zweifel

Truth and Reality

John D’Agata has been described to me before as a literary bad-boy, creating a row amongst literary scholars and readers with his creative-fictional-non-fiction. He, like many authors I have read recently, bends reality to fit his artistic vision. In About a Mountain, D’Agata writes like a journalist, projecting facts so seemingly concrete that I didn’t second-guess him until I read his Notes section at the end, which lists the facts he altered and provides readers with the real facts. Continue reading

Lies Lying in Truth

We don’t know what’s true or what’s false in Lauren Slater’s creative memoir Lying. Slater dedicates an entire page/chapter to the statement “I exaggerate,” which is the only statement we can comfortably take at face value, given the nature of the statement. Our author makes many claims, confirming none, but going back on enough that we as readers are forced to assume that everything she says is a lie. So why read what she has to say? What’s the point of reading a memoir if almost none of it is true? Well, first, we should understand why we read memoirs at all. What’s the point of reading a memoir? How is a memoir different from an autobiography? Continue reading


Charles Bukowski once said of creativity and art, “Don’t try.” This apparently stuck with Ross McElwee as he shot his autobiodocumentography, Sherman’s March. McElwee let loose his camera and lateraled the storyline and ultimately the overall message to his subjects — primarily family members and female love interests — as he set off on a journey to overcome a painful breakup. And, I guess unsurprisingly, it sucked. A lot. Maybe I missed some important nuances, or maybe I’m just not high enough of mind to see the significance (aside from the obvious cultural value it earns by being the first film of its kind) but it honestly was just depressing — and not in a good way. Continue reading

The Power and Limits of Voice

Fans of Serial have the option of either listening to the podcast, or reading the transcript of the podcast (which can be found on This American Life’s website). The real decision they’re making here is who controls the tone. Serial is a major departure from most pieces of creative non-fiction because it, in it’s intended format, is presented directly by the author — in this case Sarah Koenig — with all of Koenig’s inflections and emphases. While this is a huge convenience for those on the go, or those who prefer to sit back and relax and let the author do literally all of the work, or yes, even those who are seeking some virtual company on a lonely Valentine’s Day evening; I, for one, preferred to read rather than to listen, as I was able to more easily further separate myself from Koenig’s intentions. Continue reading

The Truth in Lies/”You Have to Ride the Wave”

People often confuse New Journalists with actual journalists. Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem is never meant to be a series of hard-hitting journalism, otherwise Didion would not reveal that she is “bad at interviewing people” (xiv) and that she dreads the whole process. No, it is a series of very personal accounts that aim to reveal California and in turn the state of the world as Didion herself sees it. Granted, the insistence to use quotes and source them in “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream” may make it seem as though Didion is presenting the facts as they are and allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions, but to focus only on the incident about which she is writing is to do a horrible injustice to Didion as an author. Continue reading