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Review :: Fourth Genre – Fall 2008

“I was looking for hope. I was trying to find a durable kind of hope to direct myself toward in order to pull together that broken piece of my life,” says environmental activist and essayist William DeBuys in his interview with Fourth Genre editor Robert Root. I read, always, looking for that durable hope, and I suspect I am not alone, but I am not sure I have ever encountered a more concise or precise description of this yearning. DeBuys is equally astute and humble in efforts here to define the forms and meaning of his own work and of the larger task of documenting the natural world about which he writes.

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Creative Nonfiction Forum :: Fourth Genre

Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction (published biannually by the Michigan State University Press) includes a forum on their website of articles from past issues: “We like to think of Fourth Genre as a learning community, a place where writers and readers can meet and engage in conversations, ask questions, experiment, test boundaries, offer advice, and share insights into literary nonfiction. The following excerpts, drawn from past issues, capture something of the range and complexity of that conversation.”

Currently, the Forum on Nonfiction includes:

Interview with Scott Russell Sanders
Roundtable Discussion: Literal versus Invented Truth in Memoir
Bret Lott, “Toward a Definition of Creative Nonfiction”
Lee Gutkind, “Why I Chose the Creative Nonfiction Way of Life”
Nancy McCabe, “The One That Got Away: On Memory and Forgetting”
Michael Steinberg, “Finding the Inner Story in Memoirs and Personal Essays”
Interview with Richard Rodriguez
Capsule Book Review by David Cooper

Review :: Fourth Genre – Spring 2007

Fourth Genre is the cacophony of reality sifted through arcs of narrative. Each issue raises the bar of representing reality, because it gives a new slice of it to the reader. Good fiction aches for verisimilitude or its opposite, and this issue of Fourth Genre proves that the rules are applicable to both life and the “unreal” life of fiction. This issue contains the editors’ prize winning essays, Nedra Rogers’s first place winner “Mammalian” and Casey Fleming’s runner-up piece “Take Me with You.” “Mammalian” begins with bodily concerns and ends with a flourish of quotes, including Erich Fromm’s famous: “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” A fixation on the concept of physical self pervades many of the creative nonfiction pieces in the issue. “Alone in Amsterdam” by P.M. Marxsen begins with a quaint conversation between the characters of a painting and its attendant observer, a woman “alone in Amsterdam.” Rebecca J. Butorac’s “A Self-Portrait of a Woman Who Hates Cameras” has a body-oriented narrative interspersed with pictures of her feet, shoes, and the various personalities of the combinations possible therein. Susan Messer’s great story, “Regrets Only,” focuses on the need for a group of people to get away from their troubled friend. The narrative shakes the reader out of lethargy and then further into shock. The reader begins to think, “Is trouble contagious?”

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Review :: Fourth Genre – Fall 2006

In a rut? Need a break from the regular story-poetry-essay journal form? This unpretentious little mag takes you beyond the three genres. Published by Michigan State University, Fourth Genre dedicates all of its nearly 200 pages to narrative nonfiction—from personal essays to travel and nature writing to literary journalism—and has, since its 1999 inception, earned four Pushcarts and generated its own thick anthology. Though the quality is obvious from a quick flip-through, each issue merits extended quiet time in your favorite chair.

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