Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Art of Selective Subtraction

Will Ferguson on the distinction between fiction and travel writing:

I've always said that fiction and travel writing are comparable to two types of sculpturing. Fiction is like working with clay; you build something up from a single character, an image, a scent. It's the art of addition. Nonfiction, and travel writing in particular, is like working in stone, cutting away everything that doesn't fit. You start big and pare down, reducing the mass of possibilities, trying to decide what matters, what doesn't. Any destination might conjure up a number of vastly different books, even from the same author. Focus on one through-line instead of another and the book – like the journey – will suddenly veer off, leading you in startlingly new directions. Or over the edge of a cliff. Travel writing is the art of selective subtraction.

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