The Fine Art of Literary Fist-Fighting: How a Bunch of Rabble-Rousers, Outsiders, and Ne’er-do-wells Concocted Creative Nonfiction (Hardcover)
In the 1970s, Lee Gutkind, a leather-clad hippie motorcyclist and former public relations writer, fought his way into the academy. Then he took on his colleagues. His goal: to make creative nonfiction an accepted academic discipline, one as vital as poetry, drama, and fiction. In this book Gutkind tells the true story of how creative nonfiction became a leading genre for both readers and writers.
Creative nonfiction—true stories enriched by relevant ideas, insights, and intimacies—offered liberation to writers, allowing them to push their work in freewheeling directions. The genre also opened doors to outsiders—doctors, lawyers, construction workers—who felt they had stories to tell about their lives and experiences.
Gutkind documents the evolution of the genre, discussing the lives and work of such practitioners as Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Rachel Carson, Upton Sinclair, Janet Malcolm, and Vivian Gornick. Gutkind also highlights the ethics of writing creative nonfiction, including how writers handle the distinctions between fact and fiction.
Gutkind’s book narrates the story not just of a genre but of the person who brought it to the forefront of the literary and journalistic world.
“This memoir/critical history will please some readers and tick off others, which seems to be precisely the point. . . . Budding journalists and students of creative writing will find plenty of red meat in Gutkind’s pages.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The ‘fist fight’ seems an apt metaphor to describe Lee Gutkind’s resolute defense of creative nonfiction—in all its forms. His characteristic thoughtful conviction keeps it new and exciting for the rest of us.”—Yvette Benavides, host of Texas Public Radio’s Book Public
“The Fine Art of Literary Fist-Fighting offers an insightful overview of the recent history of creative nonfiction and the struggles that early practitioners faced in legitimizing the genre. This is a must-read for all writers.”—Jennifer Anderson, Lewis-Clark State College
“Lee Gutkind is not only a master of creative nonfiction. He’s also a crucial catalyst who has meaningfully advanced the field. This honest, engagingly written book tells how it all happened and why creative nonfiction is so necessary.”—Steven Beschloss, director of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative and author of The Gunman and His Mother