In 1999, Michigan State University Press launched Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, a journal that began with and has maintained a devotion to publishing notable, innovative work in nonfiction. The title reflects an intent to give nonfiction its due as a literary genre—to give writers of the 'fourth genre' a showcase for their work and to give readers a place to find the liveliest and most creative works in the form.
Given the genre's flexibility and expansiveness, journal editors Michael Steinberg and David Cooper have welcomed a variety of works— ranging from personal essays and memoirs to literary journalism and personal criticism. The essays are lyrical, self-interrogative, meditative, and reflective, as well as expository, analytical, exploratory, or whimsical. In short, Fourth Genre encourages a writer- to-reader conversation, one that explores the markers and boundaries of literary/creative nonfiction.
Since its inaugural issue, contributors have earned many literary awards: 5 Notable Essays of the Year (Best American Essay); the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award; Notable Essay of the Year (Best American Travel Writing); and 4 Pushcart Prizes. Five Years of 4th Genre is a celebration of this significant literary journal. Culling a selection of some of the most creative of Fourth Genre’s first five years—the Pushcart winners are here, as well as those essays that are unique, those that tell us something new, those that startle us, and those that touch our hearts —this volume presents a representative sampling.