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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Vanishing Point’s ever-banging ideas

    “”It’s about memoir; it’s about Doritos … it’s about Michigan; it’s about Dungeons and Dragons; it’s about a lot of things.””

    Ander Monson, assistant professor of English at the UA and accomplished writer, recently returned from a series of readings promoting his new book, “”Vanishing Point.””

    According to Monson, the book was a result of two experiences: acting as a preliminary judge for a national nonfiction prize and being called to jury duty in Michigan. The judging experience was a downer, to say the least.

    “”Reading all these unpublished manuscripts, I got a little bit depressed about the sameness of many of them,”” Monson said.

    Meanwhile, jury duty gave the nonfiction expert a fitting subject to ponder. In listening to one particular defendant tell what boiled down to a false narrative, Monson had a concrete reason to engage with the question of storytelling.

    “”I started thinking about the ways in which we … think about ourselves,”” Monson said.

    He also said the book found its focus as “”the problem of memoir (and) the American desire for memoir,”” and why we as readers crave stories that are truer than fiction and, sometimes, truer than nonfiction.

    In light of recent scandals such as James Frey’s “”A Million Little Pieces”” being “”exposed”” as not entirely factual, Monson said American society has become skeptical of memoir.

    He attributes this skepticism to how common hyped-up representations of “”reality”” have become.

    “”There’s been a push in the last 20 years — the last 10, especially — where things that purport to be true try to jack it up because reality’s pretty boring most of the time,”” Monson said.

    Ironically, Monson noted, though the “”truth”” of a piece often emerges in the process of writing and is not indivisible from the actual events, the riskier moments in nonfiction writing come in the form of personal detail. He cited changed relationships and legal ramifications as a few of the possible results of such personal divulgences.

    But as a man whose profession and passion is writing, and who has more recently become known for his nonfiction work, Monson said the question of honesty in his work boils down to upholding his “”obligations to the world.””

    All in all, the book came from “”these ideas (that) began to bang against each other,”” Monson said.

    This is not an unusual way for a book to emerge. What is unusual is that these ideas — and others of his — will be allowed to continue banging. Monson published portions of his book online and intends to continue changing them as his story progresses.

    “”The press has talked about this being half book, half e-book,”” Monson said. “”It’s part printed artifact … but also has all these portals to this electronic, unstable place.””

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