Sunday, January 05, 2014

Luc Sante: Kill All Your Darlings

I hadn't heard of Luc Sante until I began studying writing at Columbia that I heard of Luc Sante.  I
hadn't really heard of anyone at that point and was remarkably under-read considering I wanted to be a writer.  But he was teaching a seminar called "Evidence" that was supposed to be about writing as an act of presenting evidence, an expansion of his own book, Evidence, in which Sante paired old black and white crime photos with an essay on the nature of and interpretation of "evidence."  This sounded intriguing, so I tried to enroll in the seminar, but was turned away due to overcrowding. The next year, in a planning error, the school overenrolled their first year class and in an effort to solve the seat issue, decided that upper level students did not need to take a workshop.  Workshop, of course, was the reason we were enrolled, so after an uproar, I was offered a spot in Luc Sante's creative non-fiction workshop.  At this point, I was no longer intrigued, but was willing to settle. Naturally, it ended up being one of the best classes I've taken in my entire life.   Each week we were given a strange assignment that forced us to rethink the way we created narratives.  Tell a story and reveal a character through an inventory.  Retell the story of the three bears in the style of a contemporary magazine.  And so on.

In my upcoming essay course on Ruzuku, we'll spend a week reading and discussing some of Sante's work from the collection Kill All Your Darlings.  One of the things that really seems to distinguish his work, for me, is that nearly everything is expressed through a sense of the physical: objects, geography, place.  Much of this is evident in a piece he wrote for New York Magazine: My Dealing, Stealing, Squealing Neighbors.  He can also be genre-defying, as in the essay The Unknown Soldier, which seems closer to a poem yet clearly expresses the sense of history of the Lower East Side of New York in the form of a litany of all of the many people who have passed before us.  And that same sense of cataloging and collage can be found in  The Book Collection that Devoured My Life.

For more info on my online essay course, go to Ruzuku

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