|Philip Gourevitch (Photo by Andrew Brucker)|
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
"Literature is just a fancy word for writing"
I applaud Philip Gourevitch’s recent post on newyorker.com in which he says “there is a kind of lingering snobbery in the literary world that wants to exclude nonfiction from the classification of literature—to suggest that somehow it lacks artistry, or imagination, or invention by comparison to fiction” ("Nonfiction Deserves A Nobel," October 9, 2014). Geoff Dyer made a similar observation in his 2001 review of Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Shadow of the Sun: “He [Kapuściński] is the victim of a received cultural prejudice that assumes fiction to be the loftiest preserve of literary and imaginative distinction” (“Ryscard Kapuściński’s African Life,” included in Dyer’s great 2011 essay collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition).
It’s time this prejudice was scrapped. As Gourevitch rightly says, “Every mode of expression has its formal demands. For writing that’s not fictive, that means fidelity to documentable reality; yet the best of it can only be done when the writer has an imagination as free as any novelist, playwright, or poet.” He concludes, “Literature is just a fancy word for writing.” I totally agree.