Nonfiction Narrative

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Interview with Mary Gaitskill: lessons from "Lost Cat"

By Narrative News October 6, 2009

Today we offer the second installment of a two-part look at narrative nonfiction from Granta’s summer issue. I spoke with author Mary Gaitskill about “Lost Cat,” her memoir on the disappearance of an adopted pet, and how she connected the loss to other events in her life. On the topic of using the piece to examine her own motives, she says, “I think that one’s own motives are interesting. Everybody’s motives are interesting… True feeling is often hidden under superficial or more attractive feelings; selfish motives are often wound up with truly altruistic ones.” She references the Grace Paley adage about fiction being a lie you tell to get to a bigger truth, and talks about the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. Fiction, she says, “is a lie if you believe it literally. It’s a story that didn’t happen, but it illuminates the idea. I express myself much more plainly or directly with nonfiction. With fiction, I am largely speaking the language of metaphor, which people frequently mistake for literal communication.” Read the full interview. Read more