Toward a Theory of Nonfiction
Jill Talbot

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 “Filled with excellent examples and lively contributor interviews, Jill Talbot’s playful and illuminating Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction clearly delineates the key differences (and similarities) between the meta-acts of fiction and nonfiction. A fascinating anthology, front to back.”—Dinty W. Moore, author, Between Panic and Desire

“Jill Talbot has not only assembled some terrific pieces of writing, but she has also provided provocative, fascinating interviews. Talbot reads books like someone who passionately enjoys storytelling. She is unafraid of complex, layered ideas concerning the relationships among author, text, reader, and the vexing questions of veracity. I very much enjoyed this book.”—Steve Almond, author, God Bless America

Metawriting—the writing about writing or writing that calls attention to itself as writing—has been around since Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, but Jill Talbot makes the case that now more than ever the act of metawriting is performed on a daily basis by anyone with a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, or a webpage. Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction is the first collection to combine metawriting in both fiction and nonfiction.

In this daring volume, metawriting refers to writing about writing, veracity in writing, the I of writing and, ultimately, the construction of writing. With a prologue by Pam Houston, the anthology of personal essays, short stories, and one film script excerpt also includes illuminating and engaging interviews with each contributor. Showcasing how writers perform a meta-awareness of self via the art of the story or the craft of the essay, the writings and interviews in this collection serve to create an engaging, provocative discussion of the fiction-versus-nonfiction debate, truth in writing, and how metawriting works (and when it doesn’t).

Metawritings provides a context for the presence of metawriting in contemporary literature within the framework of the digital age’s obsessively self-conscious modes of communication: status updates, Tweets, YouTube clips, and blogs (whose anonymity creates opportunities for outright deception) capture our meta-lives in 140 characters and video uploads, while we watch self-referential, self-conscious television (The Simpsons, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Office). Speaking to the moment and to the writing that is capturing it, Talbot addresses a significant and current conversation in contemporary writing and literature, the teaching of writing, and the craft of writing. It is a sharp, entertaining collection of two genres, enhanced by a conversation about how we write and how we live in and through our writing.


Sarah Blackman

Bernard Cooper

Cathy Day

Lena Dunham

Robin Hemley

Pam Houston

Kristen Iversen

David Lazar

E. J. Levy

Brenda Miller

Ander Monson

Brian Oliu

Ryan Van Meter