Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On the subjective address in non-fiction writing

I've got just over a week to hand in a full draft to my editor, and I've really been struggling with the issue of writerly voice. I've done so much research, in so many broad fields, and it frustrates me that rather than this fascinating stuff about the histories and cultures of size and fit, my editor wants more of my own experiences and anecdotes.

There's so much gold I'm having to summarise or cut out, but luckily I plan to showcase that stuff here on the blog.

I've also written a little essay for the Wheeler Centre about how I fret that adopting a subjective voice simply plays into the prejudices that people already have about the topic of clothes. Here's an extract:

My book needs to embrace subjectivity and embodiment, because it’s about clothing size and fit. I want to celebrate the sensuous pleasures of a garment that hangs, clings and moves in all the right ways, making us feel powerful, relaxed or sexually alluring. I also want to explore the excoriating shame we endure when our clothing doesn’t fit. Those soul-crushing change-room experiences. The public disgust and ridicule that greets wardrobe malfunctions.

But from the beginning of my project, I’ve struggled with the perception that what I’m doing isn’t ‘proper’ journalism. My book is no hard-hitting exposé, no barbecue-stopper that will land me on Q&A. (Well, okay, perhaps my absolute loathing of Q&A might have ruled that one out.)

It’s, like, about fashion, LOL!

‘Fashion has often been relegated to being a woman’s domain, something historically not deemed worthy of critical thought,’ says Serah-Marie McMahon, founding editor of Worn Fashion Journal. Fashion historian Valerie Steele, director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, adds that most people think of ‘fashion’ as a remote, superficial fairyland of runway shows and red carpet gowns: ‘They don’t identify it with what they are wearing.’

Read the rest at the Wheeler Centre website

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