What are your New Year’s Literary Resolutions?

Do you know what I only just realised? It’s the 1st of February already and I haven’t even made a list of books to read in 2013! Well, I’ve started one now after just about punching myself in the face for my own stupidity. I deserve it. But, let’s move on, shall we?

Tell me! What paperback novels, hardback plays, collections of essays, intriguing biographies, dirty memoirs or non-fiction investigations haunt your to-read list for this year? My list is so far short because I’m determined to ensure that every single title that earns a spot on it is worthy of my very time-poor attention.

On my Books to Read in 2013, I’ve featured titles that have caressed my current obsession with adventure journalism, the third world, media-fueled changed and incredible feats of writing. While since the wee age of eleven I’ve pranced around with the notion in my airy-fairy head that I’m the next Meryl Streep, about a dozen epiphanies as of late have culminated in a redirection of my passions and talents…the writing world. But neither novels nor plays for let’s just be frank here: plotting is not my forte. But rather of the creative non-fiction sort, investigating those cobwebbed corners of the globe, splattering the world with my uncoordinated footsteps and writing about the people, the places, the ideas and the change that I see and possibly even one day orchestrate. This is why the four books on my list all feature either journalism or travel.

I am still eager to hear your own reading resolutions, however, whether they be academic, for the purpose of guilty pleasure or just because no one can not love Harry Potter. What are you reading? Oh, and if you have any recommendations for me, fire away, friends!

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The New Yorker: Juicy Journalism

The New Yorker Logo

Magazines and newspapers are quite often thought of as rather dubious forms of intellectual expression. Tabloid and gossip magazines, too often at the forefront of new stands, connote a filthy feeling of trashy paparazzi journalism, with their airbrushed cover girls and less than factual facts, casting the entire journalism industry in an unflattering and morally questionable light. Newspapers often fall into this same bracket, my own town’s daily newspaper being so often riddled with spelling and grammatical errors that it’s too nauseating to read. However, these examples, though often monopolising the journalistic limelight, are only a sliver of the news industry and if you label all magazines and newspapers as inferior publications, you are doing yourself a great disservice, depriving yourself of a cornucopia of succulent articles, reviews and reports.

For quite a while, I was of the very unjust opinion that magazines were for those who couldn’t commit themselves to an actual book. I didn’t much care to read my friends’ favourites, Girlfriend and Dolly, nor was I inclined to spend $8 reading about Kim Kardashian’s new diet. I read real books and that’s all there was to it. Recently however, I discovered the other side of the journalism coin: the very shiny side; the side with juicy content, grammatical perfection, thorough research and sublime presentation. And let me just take a moment to lament all the time I’ve spent without it…

The New Yorker magazine has become a regular must-read for me. Far from the sickeningly shallow and inaccurate likes of sleaze journalism, the New Yorker is a thoughtful, diverse and informed collection of feature articles, politics, artistic reviews, pictures, fiction and poetry. Because I was such an angelic girl in 2011, Santa Claus left an iPad 2 in my stocking and I have therefore been able to subscribe to the New Yorker’s electronic version (a postal subscription being somewhat impractical considering my living in Australia). As a glorious result, I’ve read an in depth review of Meryl Streep’s portrayal of The Iron Lady, I’ve revelled in the poetry of Leonard Cohen and I’ve even stumbled across a fascinating and extraordinarily well-informed comparison of the film and book versions of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. A worthwhile allocation of my funds? You bet.

What really does make The New Yorker a divine publication, sent straight to Earth from the gods and goddesses of journalism, is the balance it achieves between informed, intelligent, researched writing and artistic, creative, satirical presentation. More so than for its content, I think The New Yorker is famous for and instantly recognisable by its cover art. Without ever displaying the flawlessly-skinned faces of young celebrities accompanied by article tasters, The New Yorker is adorned with thematic art, tailored to reflect its major feature article or the current economic, political or social climate. Always designed with talent and cleverness, the cover art can be deeply read into and interpreted in a variety ways, though always managing to clearly communicate its general gist.

Some examples of my favourite The New Yorker covers:

The New Yorker Magazine

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, The New Yorker shows the ghosts of the twin towers reaching downward from Ground Zero.

The New Yorker Magazine

Illustrated by Ana Juan, this cover pays tribute to fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide a few weeks before this cover ran. He had once created a hat designed entirely of butterflies.

The New Yorker Magazine

In commemoration of Steve Jobs' death, this cover features him at the Pearly Gates with St Peter on an iPad. Note the very demanding, hands-on-hips stance of Jobs...

The New Yorker Magazine

In celebration of the 84th Academy Awards, The New Yorker's cover is that of a group of Oscar trophies no doubt drowning their sorrows as would the unsuccessful artists.

The New Yorker magazine saved the entire journalism industry from my to-avoid list of literary forms and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in in-depth and thoughtful articles about politics, the world and the arts. Should you not find its feature articles of great consequence, at least you’ll be entertained and intrigued by its cover art, its poetry, its fiction examples and its commentary on the art scene. Impeccable writing, thoughtful content and witty illustrations…what more could a nerd want?

Creative Non-Fiction

Creative non-fiction…sounds a little like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? When you think of non-fiction, you usually think of hard, cold facts, executive summaries, scientific analyses, hypotheses, statistics, university assignments and other such forms of writing. Of course, these examples do all belong in the non-fiction aisle but they aren’t its entirety. For years, I thought of professional writing as a two-sided coin: creative fiction and uncreative non-fiction, stories versus essays, arts versus sciences. However, the wide world of writing cannot be separated so definitely into black and white for there are a myriad of writing styles that amalgamate both genres. For example, creative non-fiction.

I am a creative, expressive writer who likes to embellish and describe but when it comes to dialogue and characterisation, integral aspects of fiction, I am completely and totally inept. Character and plot are not my forte and for a long while, I felt lost in my monochrome perception of literary genres. If unable to write fiction, how was I ever to channel my flair and love for creative writing? The answer became clear upon subscribing to the New Yorker magazine and the New York Times daily newspaper. Both of these publications opened my mind to the idea that non-fiction can be colourful, creative and imaginative while still retaining real, fascinating and important content.

The New Yorker, a well respected magazine of the Condé Nast group, exemplifies sublime and creative non-fiction. Articles discussing film, theatre, dining, philosophy, the underbelly of politics, books and the world colour its pages and do so with flair, professionalism and innovative writing. Likewise, the New York Times, while featuring very factual and political articles, also celebrates creative non-fiction with genres devoted to the arts, theatre, travel, dining, fashion and literature. The ‘Movies’ section for example, is less about statistical analysis and direct quotations and more  about opinionated reviews on films, the emotive power of the latest drama and the very subjective world of cinematic evolution. Yes, creative non-fiction is out there and it is a wonderful thing to read.

As an eighteen year old girl, out of high school but yet to attend university, I am understandably at a confusing and uncertain fork in the road of my life. I have very diverse but specific interests; I love the dramatic arts: the theatre, acting, directing, film but I also love words: books, magazines, newspapers, blogs. Since around the beginning of my senior year, I spent hours upon days weighing my options. Should I attend an acting school or go to university? Should I pursue drama or get a degree in writing? Neither path seemed entirely satisfying as both excluded the other, a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make for either area of interest. But alas, I have found a solution: creative non-fiction. The world of creative, imaginative and colourful journalism opens to the door to writing about film, books and travel (my three greatest loves). You may be thinking, ‘Why on earth didn’t she think of that before?’ But you must understand, that for so many years and throughout all of my research of Australian university courses, creative writing and non-fiction have been kept very separate and due to my lack of plot and character proficiency, I never considered the realm of creative writing as an option in spite of my distaste for the bland world of tasteless non-fiction. Creative non-fiction however, is the best of both worlds.

Tell me, Readers, what your thoughts are on the subject of creative non-fiction. Do you like fiction, scientific pieces of writing, imaginative journalism or a mixture of all that the written word has to offer? Also, if anyone has any ideas or recommendations as to how best one could harness a love of creative non-fiction, do be a honey and share your sweet knowledge!