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A review and comparison of three interesting book categories fiction nonfiction and poetry

To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth. Or are they saying the same thing? And how to argue with either of them and do I want to? The first guy acknowledged the question and teased us: In the case of the first writer, the reading was more than just provocative.

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It was deeply and purposefully disturbing, in that our laughter, uproarious, indicted us no less than the first-person narrator, who revealed himself to be not just hilariously frank and self-deprecating, but a hypocrite and a bigot.

Another writer raised her hand to ask if the piece had or had not been a story. And he copped immediately. And indeed, the piece had been published as fiction in a well-known journal. And the second guy? He was determined to school us: Why distract me, why not be straightforward? Or might it have allowed me to focus, not on the pretense, but on the prose?

Maybe he wants a different kind of attention — a taste of whatever he thinks nonfiction writers are having. How else to explain why authors with international reputations, who sell plenty of books, would want to play the ambiguity card? What does it buy them? Or am I to believe them when they say they want the reader off her balance? But how does that work unless they tip us off within the text, as with Sebald, Coetzee, and Slater, for instance?

Or call the work fiction, as with Maxwell, Baxter, and, perhaps most recently, Sheila Heti. People have been writing autobiographical fiction for just about ever — and blurring genre boundaries, too. Does that sound like fun? Does that sound like art? She has an obligation. Her job — that is my job — is actually different from the job of a fiction writer. And I want my reader to believe he can count on me to revel in its challenges and rewards. If all nonfiction is fiction, all fiction is fiction, too.

He disparages and distorts my meaning and my work. It makes a whole lot of diff to me. Imagine for a moment that we lived in a place where books were sold without labels identifying their genre. What would we do? How would we know what it is we were reading? Form not only to help distinguish one book from another but form that instructs us how to situate ourselves in relation to each piece of writing we encounter.

I worry that we as a literary culture have become obsessed with labels. I worry that as readers we have come to rely on labels — a product of the marketplace — to teach us how to read.

I worry, too, that as writers we have allowed our self-imposed labels to keep us from understanding and appreciating the choices of writers who work in other modes. As if all he had to do was remember and transcribe.

For shape, that which narrative aspires to be, is what lets us think that an intelligence something like ours underlies the whole business of creation. Narrative may be a fiction, but shape is the supreme fiction.

A review and comparison of three interesting book categories fiction nonfiction and poetry

And maybe this is where some of the confusion originates. Narrative is a human imposition, the making of thing, across all genres. Did such-and-such a thing really happen, or was it made up? Memory, which is itself an engine of narrative — selective and shape-making and never without its ulterior incentives.

But this should not hurry us into the camp of David Shields and the assertion that what did or did not happen is immaterial.

Genres are like etiquette: So, a shapely story — a made thing — either way, but what a difference between the one and the other. To fictionalize, the writer proposes a world and the people and things in it.

Genre fiction

They may derive, closely even, from the experienced, the known, but the assumption is that it is an autonomous world, perhaps very much like our own, and we are to treat it as such. No one will object that there really was no blue bucket.

The beauty of fiction is that it frees us from wondering about the messy status of things, people, and events so that we can give ourselves completely to their purposeful interaction.

The Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

In nonfiction the writer picks and chooses and arranges from what is believed to be the case, and the question to what end? The psyche that invents the blue bucket may not be very different from the psyche that remembers and uses it to some narrative end, but the inventing and choosing reflect different motivations.

Both processes are determined significantly by the sensibility, the psychological character, of the writer, but the actions mark the difference between essentially opposite kinds of agency. How did this account arise from this person, these givens? Our attention is, at the deepest readerly level, directed at different things.

  • So I had some responsibility to her — even as I decided to give her a posthumous shipboard romance and things like that;
  • It is eclectic and inclusive, welcoming submissions of poetry, fiction, exposition, drama, visual art and more, and gives preference the unusual and experimental griffith review priding itself on being personal, political and unpredictable, the griffith review is one of australia's premier literary magazines, and has been igniting passionate conversation since its inception in 2003;
  • How would we know what it is we were reading?

There is nothing gained whatsoever in trying to get them to be the same thing. I was feeling very confident about what I was going to say until I saw you nodding or shaking your heads. She introduced the story she read by saying that it was not autobiographical. Then she read her story about a woman who weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 300 pounds.

What is the difference between the genres of literature (novel, poetry, and drama)?

Which is kind of my position. I believe writers should feel free to write whatever they want to and label it however they want.

In a perfect world, that one sentence would comprise my entire presentation. Last Thursday night, we announced the winners of the annual awards. Why are autobiography and biography separated as categories?

Why is there just one fiction category and why not divide that into novel, novellas, short stories, flash fictions? A book of formal verse with prose poetry? We divide literature into categories and genres, and I genially participate in the activity, less so as a writer and more so as reader. But, let us ask, what is the right thing to do?

Why do book awards juries divide their beneficence into genres? One reason seems to me to be because publishers and booksellers do. Dividing literature into genres is a consequence, among other things, of the historic relationship between publishers and booksellers.

Publishers label their products autobiography fiction, poetry, criticism, biography so that booksellers can determine what to order for the shop. Booksellers then categorize the ordered products to help customers better sort through them for purchase. The business of genres pertains to the business of retail — that is, a review and comparison of three interesting book categories fiction nonfiction and poetry the imagination in a marketplace. And here then is the issue of truth in advertising, a bedrock principle of American retail, including the retailing of literature.

People are discovered to have deceived Oprah Winfrey! Crimes on that scale. American culture is different from the rest of English-speaking culture. Like James, I resist ethics-ifying creative imagination. So let me end, in the spirit of stimulating rather than closing discussion, with a quandary rather than a conclusion: All re-enactments must be labeled. Or for any writer who wants to write whatever she wants to and label it whatever she wants to? In my first book of essays, images of that flood function as evidence of memory.

In my second book, the flood appears once; the focus is on my mother trying to scrub the silt out of the grooves of the vinyl records with a wire brush. In the third — the one about photographs — the flood remains background: In my most recent piece — a long meditation — the flood appears again, this time in response to TV images of Hurricane Sandy.

The narrator, in third person, anticipates for others: All she knows is that when those strangers go back inside their houses, they will smell the insidious scent of ruin. A flood also appears in my novel.

The flood of my childhood took on new life as if by magic. The real water that silently rose and receded becomes, for Molly, a swirling eddy as she is overwhelmed by life.

There was a difference in how I treated that flood from one book of essays to the next — and I felt it. But there was a larger difference when I let its details flood my novel. When I was writing an essay, I was hoping to discover what that memory meant, how it was relevant to the person I am today.

  1. I know now what was about to happen, but my Aunt Margaret sitting at the table in Paris did not know what was about to happen. List of writing genres genre categories.
  2. This short story was inspired by the life of Lord Byron and his poem The Giaour. All she knows is that when those strangers go back inside their houses, they will smell the insidious scent of ruin.
  3. Graham Greene at the time of his death in 1991 had a reputation as a writer of both deeply serious novels on the theme of Catholicism, [32] and of "suspense-filled stories of detection".
  4. I can do this as fiction or nonfiction. In my second book, the flood appears once; the focus is on my mother trying to scrub the silt out of the grooves of the vinyl records with a wire brush.

I was looking to what I could make of my life and the forces that shaped it. When I was writing my novel, I released myself from the struggle to make word and event coincide.

I was making up so that the reader could make of. Only I know why I choose to call one thing nonfiction and the other fiction. But I do choose. The distinction is illuminated in a recent article by Ian McEwan.