As a Fiction Librarian, I often get a little annoyed when patrons distinguish the difference between fiction and non-fiction as "fake" versus "real."
As a fiction reviewer, writer, and made-up person, I, too, get annoyed when I meet someone (usually at a cocktail party where the non-profit and for-profit worlds collide) who informs me that they don’t like to read novels because they like to “learn things.” Nothing wrong with simply preferring nonfiction to fiction, of course, but those who dismiss fiction out-of-hand usually strike me as being people who don’t know what to do with the facts they have. Facts are important, but what good are facts without insight? Fiction plays free with the facts in order to investigate even deeper matters.
This topic must be in the Booklist zeitgeist, as Joyce Saricks’ soon-to-be-published column, “Reading to Learn and Learning as We Read,” confirms. She begins:
A few months ago, I came across a comment that got me thinking: readers read nonfiction to learn something. Though seemingly innocuous, the remark, in context, implied that one doesn’t learn from fiction. I confess it got my dander up: Is nonfiction essentially superior because it offers information, the opportunity to learn something? And is it true that we don’t learn from fiction?
How does she conclude? I’ll add a link on Monday, when her column goes live, so you can read for yourself.
This is all to say nothing of the real-versus-fake issue facing memoir, about which enough has been said already to last us until 2009.
(Unless I think of something really, really clever. Then I won’t be able to help myself.)
Update: Here’s the link to Joyce Saricks’ latest column, “Reading to Learn and Learning as We Read.”