Creative nonfiction is not always tragic. The catalyst does not have to be a loss or trauma. But certainly, effective nonfiction explores the significance of events, whether personal or collective. Vivian Gornick, along with other New York writers, explored the events of September 11, 2001. The tragedy of 9/11 is staggering, almost incomprehensible. However, Gornick locates her essay on the streets of a New York so strange that she imagines, and stops herself from imagining, that this New York appears "as it once was." The horror of the attack is alluded to but Gornick names the attack's resonance, its lingering effect on the city and on the American consciousness. She suggests a kind of comfort in her comprehension of what postwar Europeans have known, an acceptance of a radically altered city.
Few events impact us as thoroughly as 9/11, but daily, other events outside our own range of experience affect our lives. Creative nonfiction, like other forms, requires a curiosity about the world around you. Nonfiction, perhaps, asks that you engage that curiosity in relationship to your own experience.
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