In another of a number of generous and encouraging pieces about my endeavours Mark Young has posted at Pelican Dreaming, he stumbles - and admits he stumbles - over how the kind of writing I do may be described. He uses creative prose then revises that to speculative prose, which I like better though it still doesn't sound quite right. I considered imaginative prose but that has too much of a mid-twentieth century English Department feel to it. So, what? I'm self-taught as a writer and the path of my learning leads from school and university essays through occasional art criticism, writing for the theatre, marginally more successful screenplay writing, to (speculative?) prose writing. But my real education came over about two and a half decades of almost totally unproductive (in terms of finished works) attempts to write poems. Though I abandoned this practice about ten years ago, it was, along with the reading of other's poetry, which I still do a lot of, the single most important influence upon how I work now. One of the questions that is never asked of poetry is its status in the fiction/non-fiction opposition that haunts prose writing. The most that might be ventured is the suggestion that such and such a poem may be autobiographical. Otherwise, poetry is left to be what it is or is not in a kind of fire free zone. This is not the case with prose. How many times have I said, in answer to a well-intentioned query, that I'm writing a book, only to see the person's eyes light up as they say: A novel? and then sadly dim when I shake my head and say: No, non-fiction.? Non-fiction is so ... non. It is a huge field, naturally, stretching all the way from technical manuals to, say, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and includes in its almost limitless bounds many literary forms: history, biography, criticism, essay, memoir and more. They are all defined, more or less, by their fidelity to fact, or at least to how real things (as opposed perhaps to imaginary things) may be represented in words. But my books do not fit within any of these literary forms, though they do tend to stray in and out of traditional subject matters and approaches to the subject matter of those forms. I feel increasingly impatient with the fiction/non-fiction divide. I wonder why it is acceptable for a novel to include autobiographical material when the inclusion of fictional elements is proscribed from extended prose works which are not presented as novels. I'm aware that it has to do with perceptions of truth-telling but, in a world of liars in public places, I have suspicions about the veracity of our idea of truth. I suppose what I'm saying is that while I don't necessarily want to write novels, I do want the freedom to make things up if I feel like it - and not be called a liar for doing so. I have a perhaps scandalous sympathy for literary fraudsters and art forgers, precisely because they call into question that allegedly absolute line drawn between the 'true' and the 'false', the fictional and factual. But much of this is already familiar ground and does not solve the problem of nomenclature. This, however, might. It is from an interview with Italo Calvino published in Paese sera on January 7, 1978, called The Situation in 1978. The interviewer was Daniele del Giudice and I quote both the last question and Calvino's answer in full:

Calvino, I will not ask you what you are writing. I'll ask you what you will not write any more.

If you mean will I never write again what I have already written, there is nothing that I reject in any of my writing. Of course, some roads do close. What I keep open is fiction, a storytelling that is lively and inventive, as well as the more reflective kind of writing in which narrative and essay become one.

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