I recently met with a friend who was once a student of mine at an elite high school. This friend is writing a novel. I'm so proud of him. He's trying to balance his feeling of guilt about not wanting a J-O-B in finance with his intrinsic need to write stories. Don't get the job in finance, I say. But then, hell, what do I know? Maybe he should get the job in finance; what's to say he won't end up writing an even better novel?
Is there a cross between a memoir and a novel? I think there is. I'm thinking of Michael Ondaatje's Running with the Family or The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. Neither of them is a novel-meets-memoir, per se, but they're multi-genred, both of them. Interesting...but I'm not sure how satisfying they are. I mean there is nothing like a good story, one with a beginning, middle and end; where a group of people go out into a timeframe together and cause each other to change, deeply and irrevocably. These changes are painful, but they are interesting. This, we writers call conflict.
I have seen really good multi-genre works of artful non-fiction: my old students' for sure. Some of them were gifted with understandings of juxtaposition, with turns of phrases, with "seeing" eyes. Real deals: I have taught some of these people. For some, writing out of the formal authority of genre -- that tyranny! -- liberates their ability to see. Let me be specific.
I taught this boy named Peter who was probably one of the most normal guys I ever met, but who could see into his normal world, and with one to five sentences, show the dirty, pimpled butt of that normalcy: horrifying.
I am in love with the colon tonight.
I'm am trying to decide if my story can be real and imagined. I know the resolution for my querulousness sounds obvious, and of course it is obvious: the story can be real and imagined. All stories are. But, I don't know how to say this: my story will be unlike anyone else's. I understand I'm being ridiculous. I should shut up. But I can't.
But back to the question of the multiple genres telling one story -- doesn't work so well. What's happening here is that multiple stories are getting told at once. Different effect than a novel. Not to say that there aren't novels who tell stories in the kinkiest of ways. There are, and they are novels loved by the same people who wanted Kinky Freedman for Texas Governor. "He's not Kinky, he's my governor," the bumper stickers said. Hmmmm....sounds like a bunch of sex fiends. Those are the types of people that like those experimental novels: sex fiends.