I tweeted a recent magazine article by Joel Stein, Time Magazine’s humor columnist, who had an interesting take on some High Schools pushing nonfiction over fiction literature (How I Replaced Shakespeare ti.me/QOonQ4 via @TIME). It had me revisiting a blog I wrote last year at the muse, http://blameitonthemuse.com/non-fiction-and-other-necessary-evils/, which in my own unique brand of humor, agreed.
Non-Fiction to me is like…eating liver. It’s supposed to be good for you, but I can’t get past the texture. It is a rare occasion when I read a non-fiction cover to cover. I start with good intention, then my fiction mind kicks my reading into hyper scan. Just give me the cliff notes.
I’m sure there is a special chair in purgatory with my name on it for dissing a hallowed genre. Don’t get me wrong. I have decades of non-fiction reading and writing in its many forms to my credit. Every day, I engage words meant to inform, describe, and enlighten, words minus the element of fictional people, places, and things. I’m doing it right now. That’s the problem. When I finally get to that tiny space of time where the necessity of the world is not calling me, I don’t want to read or write anymore … reality. I want fiction.
There was a time before our modern media overload that non-fiction was a welcome respite (mostly an only respite). Today, the shelves are filled with business books espousing the latest trend in management and finance. If it’s Tuesday, this must be supply chain. Memoirs seem to be either mudslinging or narcissism, often both. I have lots of cooking books, but I don’t really read them; I’m only there for the food. Lots of war remembrance, too bad we don’t learn from any of it. Number nine on the Sept. 2011 NYT bestseller list for non-fiction was about fonts. Somebody needs to get a life. Don’t even get me started on fitness and self-help.
Let me clarify that I do not consider books used in formal education as non-fiction. I think of them as instruction manuals. I also give a hall pass to exploration and history if it is well written (and factual), for both provide a window to who we are, and fodder for our stories.
Not all subscribe to my dysfunction. My father was a non-fiction buff. In his opinion, fiction was for children, his way of saying it is time to put aside childish things. Okay … I never grew up, I just hide it well. Fiction is that place where everybody knows my name. It’s a place where I can imagine myself better than I really am. Inspiring heroes, compelling tales and beautiful women … all of whom love me.
Then I wake up.
Like eating my vegetables, non-fiction will always be a part of a balanced diet. So is liver, but at least I can take that in a pill.