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The Treacherous Imagination

Intimacy, Ethics, and Autobiographical Fiction
Narrated by: Joseph Steenburgh
Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary

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Publisher's Summary

Many authors have been accused of betraying their loved ones by turning them into fictional characters. In The Treacherous Imagination, Robert McGill examines the ethics of writing such stories. He argues that while fiction has long appealed to audiences with its narratives of private life, contemporary autobiographical fiction channels a widespread ambivalence about the value of telling all in a confessional age - an age in which fiction has an unprecedented power to leave people feeling libeled or exposed when they recognize themselves in it.

Observing that the interests of authors and their loved ones in such cases are often less divergent than they appear, McGill assessed strategies by which both parties might use fiction not to hurt each other but to revise and revitalize intimacy. Discussing authors such as Philip Roth, Alice Munro, A. S. Byatt, and Hanif Kureishi, McGill questions whether people should always require exclusivity of each other with regard to the stories they tell about private life. Instead, authors and their intimates might jointly embrace fiction's playful, transgressive qualities, even while reexamining the significance of that fiction's intimations.

In treating autobiographical fiction as both a willful public indiscretion and a mediator of intimate relations, The Treacherous Imagination provides a comprehensive account of the various potentials that fiction holds to harm and to help those who write it, those who read and listen to it, and those who see themselves in it.

The book is published by The Ohio State University Press.

©2013 The Ohio State University Press (P)2016 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"This is a topic not much explored...And McGill covers it comprehensively, intelligently, and even-handedly." (G. Thomas Couser, author of Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing)

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  • Jo
  • 11-08-17


This book sounds like it is narrated by an automated voice. I couldn’t get past chapter 3.