Note: Barrelhouse has invited Marissa Landrigan to guest edit the non-fiction in Issue 16. We asked Marissa to share some thoughts on her aesthetic below.
I came to nonfiction writing through environmental writing, drawn to the introspection of Rick Bass’ Winter: Notes from Montana, and the woven familial-geographic narrative of Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge. What I love about nature writing isn’t j ust the nature, though; it’s that writing about the environment allows me to reach in two directions at once, to hold together the depths of personal reflection, and the struggles of the world around me.
Nonfiction writing that seeks to explore the world beyond the narrator never, of course, abandons the first-person perspective; essays about place, time, and culture simply give us a broader way of looking, ask us to understand ourselves in context.
This is why I’m so excited to be guest-editing the nonfiction for Barrelhouse’s Issue 16. Essays about pop culture live in this space in-between; pop culture as a subject hovers somewhere between personal narrative and sprawling cultural analysis.
I want essays that consider the intersection and overlap between these two modes, like Laura Bogart’s personal reflection on the subversive love story of The Americans or Logan Adams’ chronicling his political education via Rage Against the Machine; narratives that offer a fresh take on a well-known cultural phenomenon like John DeVore on what Taco Bell means to his mixed-race family or the ESPN 30 for 30 short that tells the Soviet side of the 1986 Miracle on Ice; broad-strokes meditations on celebrities in their cultural moment like Kelefa Sanneh on Ronda Rousey or Claudia Rankine on Serena Williams or John Jeremiah Sullivan on The Miz.
I’m eager to read pop cultural subjects ranging from food to sport to fashion, from smartphone games to forgotten beta-stage tech. I’m especially interested in nonfiction that uses form to challenge and upend the way we think about pop culture, essays whose structures reflect the maze-like, multifaceted relationships with have with these plastic artifacts: hermit crabs and fragmented narratives, essays in the form of dialogues or instruction manuals or social media feeds.
Above all, I want to read essays that live in a liminal space, that use pop culture to build a bridge between the inner self and the outer world, between you and us, between then and now.
Marissa Landrigan’s creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals, including The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, Salon, Guernica, Orion, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, Diagram, South Loop Review, and others. She writes a monthly column for Paste online called “Breaking Vegetarian,” and runs the food-themed reading series Acquired Taste. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Environment from Iowa State University, where she completed her first book manuscript, a food memoir called The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat. Marissa is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where she teaches creative, digital, and professional writing.