I love this topic, as I look back to see what serendipitous fiction/nonfiction pairings emerge in the course of my reading year. Visit What’s Nonfiction for the linkup.
Once more, there were the obvious literary pairings — Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar with the biography of Plath, Red Comet; Beverly Cleary’s memoirs A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet with her novels Henry Huggins and The Luckiest Girl; a number of biographies and memoirs of C.S. Lewis in conjunction with the Narniathon, and so on. These are connections I make on purpose, reading a biography to illuminate the novel or vice versa, and they are invariably wonderful. I also may read a nonfiction work to complement a fictional treatment of some topic I’ve just read — this year, I read Writing My Wrongs because after John Cheever’s prison-based fiction Falconer, I felt I needed the perspective of an actual prisoner. And that was also very worthwhile.
But most interesting to me are the pairings that come up without any conscious direction on my part. Here are just three of them: I probably could come up with more.
Kelly McDaniel’s exploration of what happens to a daughter’s soul when she is deprived of a mother’s nurturance, protection, and/or guidance is perfectly complemented by the powerful pictures of loss and emptiness in Ursula LeGuin’s fantasy of a dark temple and a child priestess.
Aimee Nezhukumathathil’s poetic vignettes of the beauty and wonder of the natural world could be read alongside Eva Ibbotson’s magical tale of a girl who escapes from an oppressive foster family into the enchanting environment of the Amazonian jungle.
Stephen Pinker asserts that language is an instinct; Alice Walker proclaims that it is a necessity for life, in her beautiful novel-in-letters that was groundbreaking in giving voice to the Black American experience, particularly for women.
What fiction/nonfiction pairings did you discover this year?