Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Introducing Reality Literature

The word "nonfiction" bothers me.

It starts with the premise that fiction is the primary, base category, and that anything else is defined in relation to fiction and therefore subordinate to it. I like fiction immensely and read more of it than is probably healthy, but I still think that's a flawed premise.

Nonfiction isn't the absence of fiction in the way that cold is the absence of heat or dark is the absence of light; it's simply something, the presence of itself rather than the absence of fiction. Besides, even for things which are defined as the absence of other things, we use actual words rather than awkward Orwellian-sounding prefix constructions; it's cold instead of nonheat and dark instead of nonlight.

The question, of course, is which word would work better? "Fact" is not entirely accurate, and it's also a bit limiting; it fits technical reports nicely, assuming they're honest and accurate, but for more analytical pieces or personal narratives, you'd be stretching the definition of "fact" a bit; facts are cold, concrete things, and not all of what we call "nonfiction" fits that. "Truth" also might not be wholly accurate, nor is it a good way to distinguish between fiction and not, as I've observed before.

I wonder how difficult it would be to get people to start calling it "Reality Literature".

No, not really. That would be awful. I need better ideas.

(cross-posted from my personal blog, One Day at a Time)

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