Not too long ago, author Ken McGoogan argued in The Globe and Mail that non-fiction books get short shrift in our culture, fiction soaking up the glam and all. Now, Globe columnist and novelist Russell Smith has stepped into the fiction corner, and it’s a pleasure to see him all riled up. (Neither piece is currently available online to non-subscribers, alas; see Quillblog passim for more on McGoogan’s.)
The real question, it seems, is who is harder done by. Says Smith:
Every fiction writer in the country knows that he or she is working in the second-least-popular genre, more read only than poetry. We know it because our editors and agents are always subtly or not so subtly suggesting that we try a work of non-fiction next. We have all had the conversations at cocktail parties with the alpha males who loudly proclaim that they don’t have time for fiction because they need facts. We know it’s not considered to be very manly or important.
Smith also rightly jumps on McGoogan’s dubious claim that non-fiction is more likely than fiction to stand the test of time. He does twist the knife a bit, though: “It’s 100 years from now. Ken McGoogan or Alice Munro?”