Discussion Topics

Ideas and opinions to spur reflection and debate.
In “Invasion of the Genre Snatchers” (Poets & Writers Magazine, page 12) Kevin Nance discusses how some literary authors have incorporated elements of genre writing into their works. How do you define literary writing versus genre writing? Is one more inherently valuable as a form than the other? Why or why not?

In “Family War Stories” (page 21), Terese Svoboda describes the challenges of writing Black Glasses Like Clark Kent: A GI’s Secret From Postwar Japan, the story of her uncle’s experience serving as a military policeman in occupied Japan. “In order to tell my uncle’s story—to make it ‘more significant than a story a family tells itself,’ as [fellow nonfiction writer Tom] Bissell says—I had to read the smoke of history, piece together missing or mutilated documents, listen hard to silent veterans, and ultimately try to understand his suicide.”

In “Dear Reader” (page 26), Elizabeth Kelley Gillogy’s profile of poet Billy Collins, Collins says, “ The initial graciousness in [a] poem really amounts to reader entrapment. The poem might seem welcoming, but the reason I am welcoming the reader is to lure the reader inside the poem so that other things can happen besides just good manners.” Read Collins’s poem “Adage” (page 29). How does Collins establish a welcoming tone? How does this work to convey the poem’s theme?

In “After the Flood” (page 34), Kevin Larimer’s profile of novelist David Rhodes, Rhodes says, “Experience comes to us as a whole, and to understand it intellectually we pull it apart and we separate one from the other in that process of abstraction. But the experience is always bigger than the understanding of that experience.” What does Rhodes mean by this? How does this relate to the writer’s task of creating art?
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