Skip to Content

Writing in No-Man's-Land

Me and The New York Times

At this late date, I must confess I’m not a very good team player. I understand what Groucho Marx meant when he said, “I wouldn’t join a group that would have me.” I have a masters degree in journalism and I’ve been fired from three newspapers for conflicts with editors or for wanting to write the wrong stories. So I get it about the MSM, which I feel effectively marginalized me. More important to my education was the creative writing workshops I took as an undergraduate after a four-year hitch in the Army and a year in Vietnam. I wrote some fiction (several short stories on Vietnam in Penthouse magazine in the 1970s, for example) then got into journalism and, finally, taught myself photography. My adult life has been bouncing around among these three enterprises. These days, I find myself wanting to write in the no-man’s-land between fiction and non-fiction, a place where those designations don't matter any more or even exist. Bosnian writer Aleksander Hemon, author of the hybrid “novel” The Lazarus Project, told The Guardian that, in Bosnia, “there are no words for fiction and non-fiction, or the distinction thereof. . . . This is not to say that there is no truth or untruth. It’s just that a literary text is not defined by its relation to truth or imagination.” The same tends to rule in African languages and in Arabic, where the idea of “story” is emphasized, as is the purpose of the writing and whether it’s literature or has a more practical purpose. Kurt Vonnegut did this kind of hybrid writing in Slaughterhouse Five, or The Children’s Crusade, where at one moment he’s the author Kurt Vonnegut writing about real events and, then, it's Billy Pilgrim, whose war-rattled mind is loose in time and space. As for Trump as artist, I'm reminded of a character at the bar in Billy Joel's "Piano Man": Paul, "a real estate novelist."

story | by Dr. Radut