- Editor's Notes
This issue brings to the bustling marketplace of contemporary literary nonfiction what we feel Fourth Genre does best. As you peruse the contents you'll find that variety, range, and experiment trump editorial agenda and genre politics. Here, young or previously unpublished writers mingle with seasoned practitioners—if anything this issue tilts the balance in favor of new voices. We mix short and long work with subject-driven, argumentative essays and others that resist the urge to organize, argue, prove a point, or synthesize. Some writers travel to foreign places while others occupy familiar spaces closer to home. We pay thoughtful homage to influences and inspirations of the past, but don't shy away from present literary controversies that risk the wrath of powerful arbiters of the status quo. We also offer nearly a dozen studied reports on what writers of literary nonfiction have been reading.
An observation by Michael Danko in the Roundtable on "Teaching the Classical Essay" about the way some classical essayists can circle around a topic applies as well to this business of editorial diversity. "[W]e can see the writer of a good essay," Danko remarks, "circling around a given topic, coming up with a variety of meanings, not one single 'yes' or one single 'no,' not necessarily a 'pro' or a 'con,' as if there were only two sides of any given 'argument.' In many situations, this yea-nay polarization closes off conversation, dialogue, veers us very far away from the 'middle' toward which I think we generally attempt to direct our voices."
As we enter into a political season in which so much public discourse is marked by "yea-nay polarization," maybe the conversations and ruminations taking place in the following pages can serve as a counterpoint, even a corrective. Or at least a respite.
—DDC [End Page vii]