Nonfiction

18th May 2009 | Books | 1 comment

I’m reading the American poet Mark Doty’s memoir about his two beloved dogs. It’s a charity shop find in a Large Print Edition, the oversize print giving me the impression that the author is talking to me slowly and in a loud voice. The sensation fades away as I get drawn into this lovely book, which I’m so glad I found ‘by chance’. Actually, a Small Print edition would have suited it better, to be cupped in the palm and pored over like an Elizabethan miniature.

At the front of the book, the author’s other works are listed, some of them in the category Nonfiction. I find this word slightly jarring. Paperbacks are reviewed in literary supplements each week, divided into the categories ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’. It’s as if fiction is the gold standard for literature, and anything which isn’t fiction has to dissent from it by calling itself Nonfiction, as if its lack of made-up-ness is a shortcoming. Puritanically I feel that Fact should be the prevailing standard, and works of the imagination, such as novels, should be described as Non-Fact. Imagine if prose and poetry were categorised only as Prose and Nonprose, or if all serious works were lumped together as Nonhumour!

One of these days I expect I’ll walk into a record store and find classical music filed under Nonpop.

1 Comment

  1. James H

    I’ll have to leave another comment, since this reminds me of when I had to return some scores I’d borrowed to a library, and had to choose between placing them in the ‘Fiction’ or ‘Non-fiction’ returns slot. I couldn’t for the life of me decide which one music should be!

    Reply

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