Words mean things.

Can anyone explain to me how Letters to Wendy’s is non-fiction? I was getting tired of it, as fiction, because not only is the letter-writer not a specific person, he’s no person likely to ever exist.

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7 Comments

Filed under books, recirculated internet

7 responses to “Words mean things.

  1. is it supposed to be non-fiction? i thought its genre was supposed to be ambiguous, but more or less “poetry”. i haven’t really read it, but i know wave books focuses on poetry… and of course poetry is full of speakers who are not specific persons…

    • I assume Joe Wenderoth wouldn’t say it’s non-fiction, but I’m perplexed by anyone making that argument. I could see prose poetry, because there is a lot of concern with abstract problems and images (and because Wenderoth’s a poet), but mostly I just think it’s a fiction book in comment cards.

  2. Sam

    I really want Kirsty to tell us all, and hopefully she will, but also I am not opposed to this classification.

    If it were a fiction book, I would imagine that Wenderoth invented a character who took trips to Wendy’s. But, he actually went to Wendy’s every day and wrote on the comment cards and ate the things he said he ate and observed the people he said he observed. The article is about the line between fiction and non-fiction, about non-fiction that lies, and I can see how this book rests near that line. I think I can especially understand how this book uses nonfiction as “a framing device.”

    I think your post raises some interesting questions, though: Is his hard-to-believe character a sign that it’s fiction? Aren’t there existing people who are almost inconceivable? Don’t people have self-images that are way off-base?

    I haven’t actually read this book.

    • kirsty

      sam, read this book. because I think it’s hilarious. also because I agree with everything you say about it, speculatively.

      katelyn, has it not won you over?

      here’s what I think. genre labels are for marketing and ‘non-fiction’ sells better than ‘poetry’ or ‘poetic prose’ or ‘poetic criticism’ or ‘hyperbolic performative critique’ – any of which may or may not better describe the thing. so that is an easy answer. and what sam said.

      as for personhood and believability, I don’t think Wenderoth is going for psychological realism at all. he creates a persona – who is hyperbolic and grotesque – the way advertising or a cartoon is. you might say he enters into part-real (as in he actually went there and ordered stuff and watched people and wrote on comment cards) part-fictive (and I mean fictive in the sense that all language-making is fictional) symbiosis with Wendy’s. unlike Supersize me, the engagement is a performance of parodic embrace. which feels of a moment that is not our moment but that I have a soft spot for. and the shit is laugh out loud funny, I think. but I did read it aloud with my friend in Wendy’s over Frosties, so…I recommend that.

      • But, he actually went to Wendy’s every day and wrote on the comment cards and ate the things he said he ate and observed the people he said he observed.

        Really? That’s funny, because I never even considered that as a possibility. I should have said “no person not aware that he’s writing a book”. I assume a sort of literary fourth-wall (two-dimensionality?) when I sit down to read something, regardless of genre, that usually works for what I read. (Even in directly addressed stuff and various textually aware post modernism I usually experience the narrator saying ‘this is a thing I’m writing,’ but not ‘this is *this* book that you are now reading in the same world in which I’m writing it.’) So I figured, the premise is comment cards to Wendy’s, not comment cards written at Wendy’s and then not sent so as to be a book, with that knowledge built in. This changes my perspective to be on board with classifying it as non-fiction, but not even sure that the person writing the comment cards constitutes a character.

        which feels of a moment that is not our moment but that I have a soft spot for.

        I just reread your comment and realized this perhaps not in agreement with my ‘same world’ idea. Why is it not our moment?

        katelyn, has it not won you over?

        No, I was enjoying it. I just stopped reading and haven’t felt compelled to start again. But I also feel like I was fundamentally misunderstanding it and found that frustrating. I’m curious to see if I still have appreciation mixed with the conviction that Wenderoth may be a dick after I go back to it.

        • Sam

          hyperbolic performative critique made me laugh harder than anything else on the internet today. also i think it is probably the right genre.

          also, does no one else care that katelyn is cheating on us?? letters to wendy’s is not i am death: two novellas. this is getting too willy-nilly for my taste.

  3. I stopped respecting the authority of the poll.

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