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Tag Archive: Marie Calloway

In Defence of the Confession

How the literary establishment mistreats young, shameless writers like Marie Calloway
True Story

“I have the right to write about my life.” — Marie Calloway

Lately, a confusing debate has erupted over the validity of what is being called “confessional writing,” the kind that places its author and its author’s intimate experiences at the centre of the narrative. The modern confessional exists in transparent opposition to objective writing, where the writer is removed and reports narrative facts largely without opinion, and definitely without feeling. The proliferation of online sites that facilitate impromptu personal writing has cultivated a belief among the status quo that serious writers shouldn’t share an “excess” of personal details or opinions, lest they risk a public shaming. It’s certainly not uncommon in the Internet age to see a personal piece met with a clumsy, trolling comment chorus of “Keep that to yourself,” “TMI” or “Why should I care about your life?”

Additional indictments hurled at confessional writing are that it’s boring or embarrassing, although for whom is not entirely clear. Some critics have concluded that it is without exception bad writing, unworthy of publication, blanketing the form with disdain in hopes it will be forced back into the writer’s private documents folder. By even referring to it as a confession suggests that the author has done something wrong, that there is a central sin they should be repenting; at times, it seems the sin is merely in the act of telling: “How dare they?”

Exactly what differentiates the loathed confession from the lauded personal essay is difficult to name. But it’s impossible to ignore that a majority of these controversial and oft-dismissed confessions are being written by women — primarily young, under-published outsiders accused of lacking the self-awareness that presumably comes with age. The complaints suffered are often of the gendered variety, suggesting a naïveté on the part of the authors to be proud of documenting and distributing their experiences, much like web cam self-portraits posted on Facebook. The suggestion is that they are boring, reprehensible, or invalid in some way, and should never see the light of day. (more…)

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