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My second manuscript for The Craft of Creative Nonfiction (#1041)

Topics/tags: Writing

TL;DR: The actual manuscript is available only as a PDF document.

Yesterday, I turned in my second manuscript for The Craft of Creative Nonfiction. I was assigned to write a piece of cultural critique, or cultural criticism, or something like that. I must admit that I still don’t quite understand what is involved in that genre, even though my peers gave a great presentation on the topic. Yes, I realize that I am supposed to write about culture critically. But it feels to me like almost anything you write can critique culture in some way or other. But I did pay attention to issues of form. The writing instructions that Prof. S. asked us to read in the Bradway Anthology were all about the value of sources. We talked a lot about the role of the author in the piece; the author should be present and have a clear voice. I suppose that happens in most good creative nonfiction. Perhaps the description I liked best was that cultural critique is like an academic paper, except written using the tools of creative nonfiction. That’s something I can get behind, even though my personal set of tools remains somewhat primitive.

As you may recall from yesterday’s musing, I assigned myself to include a variety of characteristics that my peers, my professor, and my psyche had identified in one of our model pieces. We had three: David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, Wendell Berry’s Getting Along with Nature, and a section of Stephen Kuusisto’s Have Dog, Will Travel. For reasons I describe in that assignment, I selected the DFW piece.

What did I choose as a topic? Social media. Well, sort of. A particular aspect of social media. It offends me when students uniformly refer to the symbol # as hashtag, particularly since it is (a) only part of a hashtag and (b) should probably only be called hashtag when it is used in that context. So I wrote about the name of that symbol, the loss of creativity that naming it hashtag represents, and the loss of creativity that hashtags represent. Along the way, I inserted some snide comments on various pieces of social media and added a brief history of Plans. My early draft also had a lot about teaching programming, but there wasn’t room for that part. Perhaps I’ll release that earlier draft later.

Unfortunately, that manuscript is one that I don’t think will translate as well to Web page form. Why? Because, in the spirit of DFW, I have a lot of footnotes. And part of the fun of footnotes is that they can interfere with the main text [1]. I also enjoyed playing with the footnote marks; since the essay was partially about symbols, I let Word choose a sequence of symbols and did not allow it to restart that sequence on each page, which violates the Chicago Manual of Style and, I suspect, good sense. So the twenty-one or so footnotes run from *, †, and ‡ to ‡‡‡‡, §§§§ [2], and ***** [3]. After all, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing to excess.

Hey, maybe that should be my motto. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing to excess. It can replace my old motto [4].

Since I cannot easily convert that rich text formatting to this simple Web page, I will instead point you to a PDF of my manuscript. Perhaps you’ll take the time to read it. I wonder if you’ll find that it is anything other than an extended musing [6]. I hope you will.

Did I mention that Word won’t let you footnote footnotes? Here’s another huge flaw: Word also won’t let you insert comments on footnotes. I apologize in advance (or, more likely, in retrospect) to my editors.

Postscript: Bonus points to anyone [7] who finds the reference to the legendary Second City sketch, Football returns to the University of Chicago.

[1] Word was less cooperative in giving me control over that interference than I would have liked.

[2] I don’t know why Word uses the section symbol for footnotes.

[3] One problem with using stars or asterisks in a Markdown document is that the processor wants to interpret them as signifying a switch to italic or bold.

[4] The last one I recall is If you try to keep too many eggs in the air, some will crash to the ground, but others will miraculously turn into soufflés. Or something like that. But I recall sharing that motto with Henry Walker back when his office was still on Noyce 2nd, in what I think is now Joe Miletti’s office. I must have had some other mottos [5] along the way. I’ll have to ask Michelle and the offspring. In any case, I suppose that’s a musing for another day.

[5] Should that be mottoes? I’m not sure. aspell says so, but the Interweb tells me that either spelling works. In any case, my writing seems to keep my spelling checkers on their toes.

[6] At about 2,600 words, it’s not even all that extended.

[7] Other than David James Sherman.

Version 1.0 of 2020-04-06.