The American writer has his hands full, trying to understand and then describe and then make credible much of the American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and the culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist.
Kevin Huizenga is one of my 3 favorite makers of comics these days. His methods mix accessible pictures, science, philosophy, history, and autobiography all together in a form much like David (Reality Hunger) Shields describes here:
The lyric essay asks what happens when an essay begins to behave less like an essay and more like a poem. What happens when an essayist starts imagining things, making things up, filling in blank spaces, or leaving the blanks blank? What happens when statistics, reportage, and observation in an essay are abandoned for image, emotion, expressive transformation? There are now questions being asked of facts that were never asked before. What, we ask, is a fact these days? What’s a lie, for that matter? What constitutes an “essay,” a “story,” a “poem”? What, even, is “experience”? For years writers have been responding to this slippage of facts in a variety of ways–from the fragmentary forms of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry that try to mimic this loss to the narrative-driven attempts by novelists and memoirists to smooth over the gaps. The lyric essay, on the other hand, inherits from the principal strands of nonfiction the makings of its own hybrid version of the form. It takes the subjectivity of the personal essay and the objectivity of the public essay and conflates them into a literary form that relies on both art and fact, on imagination and observation, rumination and argumentation, human faith and human perception.