“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” at least that’s what Lee Gutkind claims in the book of same title (2012). But is it true? According to Gutkind in creative nonfiction writing it is assumed that the facts are true — real, it’s simply the style of writing that is creative. Anything less than absolute truth violates the readers’ trust and, thus, damages the writer’s credibility, Gutkind would suggest. But where does this claim leave autofiction as a life writing genre?
There are plenty of life writing scholars who grapple with the ethics of this vast genre. I presume that we all do in some ways. So why begin by referencing Gutkind instead? Simple, the title is catchy, and it gets to the heart of the questions I raise here: what is autofiction? Can life writers make stuff up? And what the H-E- double hockey sticks is truth anyway (hockey sticks look light L-L’s in case you’re wondering)? These are precisely the kinds of questions raised by panelists Sergio Da Silva Barcellos, Shauni Gussem, Aleksandra Bednarowska and Shashibhusan Nayak on the topic of Teaching Truth and/or Fiction.
Gutkind, Lee. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literacy Journalism and Everything in Between. Boston: Da Capo Press, 2012.