Reading Practice

Terri Martin's "Three Hollows," which appears in Appendix B, Sample Student Narratives, is an example of another kind of nonfiction narrative. You may want to read it before continuing with this chapter. Very much located in Martin's personal consciousness, unlike Miller's piece, "Three Hollows" also is an exploration of death. But while Miller examines the 23 deaths in Sarajevo from a continental distance, and through the translation of Smailovic's music, Martin's meditation centers on three intimate deaths that have impacted her life. The circumstances of these seperate deaths intersect in Martin's observations and contemplation. Martin's narrative seeks an understanding that all humans seek, for we all face dying. Martin suggests, however, that we need to meet death while we are alive, to understand the full quality of life. In a way, her piece is a metaphor much like the Native American idea of life as a circle. Martin's narrative circles around these three deaths toward a greater understanding of her own "hoop," her own "wholeness."

It is easy to grasp the significance of Miller's "23rd Adagio." Some of that ease comes from Miller's journalistic style, which immediately signals the importance of Smailovic's act through the third-person narration. Of course, the resonance of the war in Bosnia is still with us, particularly as more and more warfare erupts worldwide. Miller's piece, then, is immediately accessible. Martin's, contrastingly, appeals for different reasons and might appeal to a different type of reader. "Three Hollows" is more of a personal essay than literary journalism. In order for a reader to invest in it, the reader must accept Martin's experience as valid. Martin achieves that acceptance through the strength of her observation and the lure of the stories she is telling. She also employs interesting, fictive techniques such as occupying other consciousnesses in the narrative. The short, italicized sections enter the thoughts of her husband and her sister. This is an example of the possibility for exploration inherent in creative nonfiction.

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