During class today, we learned about the genre of creative nonfiction while discussing Joan Didion’s “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream.” This was a totally foreign concept to me because, as I said in class, I immediately think of my biology textbook when nonfiction is mentioned. I thought nonfiction was always an extremely factual, cut and dry account of a specific topic. However, after talking about Didion’s short story, I learned this new genre allows facts to intermingle with an author’s opinions. Creative nonfiction can also be organized more organically. Because this genre is so new to me, I decided to research a bit more on the subject.
According to University of Vermont, “Creative nonfiction merges the boundaries between literary art (fiction, poetry) and research nonfiction (statistical, fact-filled, run of the mill journalism). It…employs the same literary devices as fiction such as setting, voice/tone, character development, etc.” This makes sense, considering most of our class did not realize that Didion’s story was based off of real events. She writes in a way that encompasses all of the necessary facts but has an organization that flows and reads like a narrative. Not only this, the subject matter is a clue that hints at creative fiction. The author’s style employs both creative and factual details, especially when she describes the San Bernardino Valley. Instead of simply and didactically writing it “lies only an hour east of Los Angeles,” Didion includes more lyrical sentences such as “It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows” as well (3). The short story also has Didion’s own sidebar comments and opinions throughout. For example, she mentions that Lucille and Arthwell’s affair “began to resemble instead the novels of James M. Cain, the movies of the late 1930’s, all the dreams in which violence and threats and blackmail are made to seem commonplaces of middle-class life” (15). By likening the affair to literature and historical cinema, Didion makes the piece more than a listing of facts. However, her tone in many places is direct and includes many accurate details, such as the addresses where the characters live and their testimonies. By weaving reality with creativity, the author has written an engaging story that is sure to keep readers of all genre preferences interested. Now that I know more about this genre, I plan to seek out more creative nonfiction.