I’m going to be reading with Tim Elhajj on Sunday at 5 PM at Seattle Book Fest. Tim has recently begun publishing a series of very short nonfiction essays (at places such as Brevity and the New York Times) about his experiences as a homeless man, addict, and growing up in Pennsylvania with the name Elhajj. The short-short or flash fiction or whatever you want to call it seems to be the genre of choice online. I have mixed feelings about the vast majority of these pieces since they often either way cute, a bit pat, or revel in the well wrought sentence and are so intently focused on making language new they feel overworked and manic. When this comes to nonfiction it can be really painful, even if the thing I’m reading is only 500 words. Tim manages to be at once natural and usually presents a kind of complete thing in a very short space. I don’t feel manipulated or tricked or forced to admire his language. Instead often read his work and feel engaged. I hope you can come by Book Fest and listen to Tim read his stories and see what we have to say about telling very short nonfiction stories.
Here is the description of out reading/talk (after the break):
Would I Lie?
Seattle Bookfest 5-6 p.m. Sunday Oct 25
Novelist Matt Briggs and essayist Tim Elhajj will read from and talk about the “the nonfiction flash” or “micro-memoir” that is the personal essay that is under 1,500 words. James Whorton Jr. who edited a special issue of micro-memoir for the Mississippi Review wrote:
We talk about the various narrative genres—novel, memoir, short story, straight journalism—as though these categories have a separate existence from the particular works they describe. Credibility does not reside in the genre, however, but in the person of the writer. Books don’t lie to us, people do: we’ve been lied to by neighbors, Presidents, and novelists alike, and skepticism will never be made obsolete by any refinement of the literary categories. It will always be indispensable both to citizenship and to literacy. (”Partly True Stories,” Mississippi Review)
In this reading and discussion Briggs and Elhajj will read work that, they hope, seems real. And they will talk about the sleight of hand of telling the “real” story.
Tim Elhajj is a writer in the Pacific Northwest. He lives near Phantom Lake with his wife, kids, a dog and some chickens. Tim’s creative non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Brevity, Sweet: A Literary Confection, and elsewhere. You can find out more about him on his blog: Present Tense (past imperfect), at telhajj.com.
Matt Briggs is the author of five books, including The Remains of River Names (Black Heron Press), and Shoot the Buffalo (Clear cut Press). Shoot the Buffalo was awarded a 2006 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. His novel will be re-issued in November. Briggs second novel, The Strong Man, is forthcoming in January 2010. Recent fiction has appeared in Spork, First Intensity, Seattle Magazine, and The Clackamas Literary Review. Briggs writes regularly for Reading Local: Seattle.