Writing Creative Non-Fiction: Rodisnky’s Room


Creative Practise classes are over. This does not mean that I want to abandon and to forget all the interesting things we have learnt, and for this reason I would like to go over some of the notes I have taken and write some posts based on them. They could help me in my research to write the final project. We are requested to write a creative non-fiction piece of 2000 words. I have some ideas. But first, I want to deepen the craft of writing creative non-fiction. It seems like a hard task: I am used to write fiction or essays. Creative non-fiction seems to be somewhere in the middle.

Today I asked Professor Lichtenstein if she recommended any texts, articles or books about writing creative non-fiction. She told us that is quite an experimental genre, and it needs to be explored. She told us that the books we have read in class are all great and different examples of non-fiction writing, so we have to take them into consideration.



Pic by Alice Hampson


Rodinsky’s Room was the first book we had to read for the class. I was very interested in the book and it brought me in from the very beginning. I liked how Rodinsky’s story became Lichtenstein’s story. She is the story. I would like to write down some quotes from the book that I particularly liked and that I could find useful to understand what it means to write creative non-fiction. First of all, I think that Sinclair wrote something that as a writer I should bear in mind: First thought, best thought. Trust yourself. Don’t panic, don’t try to be a perfectionist. Trust your ideas more than your paranoid.

[The sentences in italics are quotes from the book.]

Rodinsky’s Room is not a story about a man disappearing and leaving a room behind him. The book is the story of many people. It’s the story of Rodinsky, of course, but also of Rachel Lichtenstein, of Lichtenstein’s heritage, of Lichtenstein’s granfather. It can seem like a detective story. It has hooks, cliff-hangers. But it’s terribly moving. It’s a story about memory and identity.



Pic by Vadim Sherbakov


Setting is fundamental in this story. It reminds me of our practise of immersive writing, the practise of walking and observing carefully the places that you write about. And even if you are writing non-fiction, by close observation and research houses become sets, an album of images becomes a self-portrait. Being always willing to discover is a great part of writing non-fiction: you can manage to make an overloud somewhere into an estranged and marvellous nowhere. Or viceversa. The important thing is that you get soaked into the place that you are going to write about. A detail can make the difference. Either you see it, or you don’t.

But seeing and taking notes are not the only things that matters. The setting must include something else. Love, memory, sense of identity. A house tells a lot about its inhabitants. It is what we cannot see that makes sense of what we can. Only by taking a grip on emotions it is possible to bring a place to life. Otherwise, it will be all about the theatre in which the dominant element is the set. The house has become a theatre of ghosts. Rodinsky’s Room remained unopened for twenty years. It was a trick without an audience. But when it found an audience, it became also the story of someone else. Rooms change shape at their own will.



Pic by Mel Baylon


Jewish heritage is a great part of the book. Rachel Lichtenstein tries to unveil the traditions of her family through the story of a man she never met. Through the description of the details that brought the room to life. It was hard and demanding. But, as Iain Sinclair said, without conflict there is no theatre. Rachel Lichtenstein managed to incorporate the everyday particular into a mythological structure, trying to discover and investigate about a brick or an inscription from which the story of Jewish settlement could be extracted. But then, discovery mutates into obsession. The thing that is pursued becomes itself the pursuer. 

Rachel Lichtenstein’s journey proceeds through connections in timeIn the book, Iain Sinclair’s considerations about writing real stories of real people, about fixing them in  the eternity’s cycle are very interesting. He says that to be recalled was to be betrayed. He also says something about photography – which, as we have seen in class, ins a big part of a good research and exploration: faces offer themselves, just once in the cycle of eternity, in order to seduce the photographer. You don’t steal the soul of the subject. The subject steals the soul of the photographer.



Pic by Ashley Baxter


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