>On the plane ride back from BlogHer, I read a fascinating book about the history of rats in New York City, Rats by Robert Sullivan. The best parts of the book were the historical anecdotes and facts about rats. Also, the few gross-o things I learned (i.e. - if the rat population grows too large to support itself, the furry beady-eyed beasts turn to cannibalism) and squeamish close encounters with rats were great. Less interesting was the author's observations of and ruminations about some rats in an alley in downtown New York, which got me thinking about types of nonfiction writing.
Last week after my writing class, I spoke to the instructor about my desire to attend an MFA program in the fall. He felt that I demonstrated excellent progress in class, but that my writing was not literary, but more journalistic. He described it as "magazine-y," and pointed out that in the prior week I described a couple using the word yuppie. "Yuppie is a label," he said. "It doesn't mean anything."
My additional assignment for this week is to take a page of an article in Vanity Fair and a page from New York, circle all the adjectives, copy it, and bring it to class. I began working on it on my way to the conference, only to discover that what I thought would be obvious isn't so. Sure, I know that an adjective describes a noun, but in reading these articles, I'm having a hard time determining how certain words are being used. Perhaps this is the point of the exercise. Or perhaps I am dumb. In any event, as I read Rats, I tried to determine whether the parts of the book I liked were literary or journalistic. (Answer: Don't know yet. Still trying to understand what makes something "magazine-y" versus "literary.")
So much to learn, so little time. Of one thing in which I am certain: if a rat ever swam up through my toilet bowl, as is known to happen because they are strong swimmers (I was going to say Olympic, but maybe that's magazine-y?), and poked its whiskered nose out, I'd have a heart attack.