What constitutes non-fiction?
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As a librarian, I have always considered non-fiction to be everything that isn't fiction. Therefore poetry and plays are non-fiction. What is the opinion of the group?
I have always considered non-fiction to be everything that isn't fiction. Therefore poetry and plays are non-fiction.
That's a bit circular, isn't it?
Seems to me that what you are really saying is that fiction must be narrative prose.
I certainly wouldn't class poetry and plays as non-fiction. In fact, I don't class them as being other than fiction at all. They are creative retellings and are most often fictitious (although there is a definite grey area when talking about biographical poetry or 'creative' non-fiction). For me, non-fiction is plain fact-based writing without a fictitious element.
According to Dewey, only the 3's are fiction - 813, 823, 833, etc. So poetry at 811 and plays at 812 aren't officially fiction. Yet I personally do consider them as such since they come from the imagination. But so do many other fields like music depend on the imagination so the divide is murkier.
Hey! Dewey may be how libraries classify but it is NOT the definition of a term. Just because something doesn't come under a certain DDC doesn't mean librarians get to rewrite actual real world definitions. Heavens!
#3 We were replying at the same time.
" ... non-fiction is plain fact-based writing without a fictitious element." This makes a lot of sense but then things like the Reagan biography and a recent Holocaust survivor testimony (and I can't remember the title off my head) are classed as non-fiction when they were made up writings and the waters are even muddier.
Edited for clarity
#5 makes a lot of sense - thanks!
#6 Unfortunately how Library of Congress and Dewey does it is ingained in all librarians so it can be hard to see things in another way.
#7 On a Creative Writing degree course module I did, we had an interesting discussion about this. My tutor was talking about writing creative non-fiction (another modern example of which would be The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). I was the stuffy stick in the mud that argued against shifting the bar too far over to the creative side but we came to the conclusion that different people had different tolerance levels for the 'creative' side.
It seems to me that poetry and plays can be fiction or nonfiction. "Poetry" and "play" are formats, not a description of content. But I have no basis for my opinion, and at any rate, the question isn't going to keep me up at night. Interesting, though.
You happen to be correct, TBR. The Dewey 800's is for classifying Literature. Poetry and Plays have their own forms, and their own classifications. The 8n3's are for admitted (or obvious) works of fiction.
The fuzzy area, of course, comes to play when the author CLAIMS that a book is Non-fiction, when, in fact, it's a pack of lies. One example would be a book supporting Holocaust denial. Another (cynical) example is the Warren Report. Some people believe it's a cover-up. What is one person's proof is another person's fiction.
Personally, I think ALL books involving ideology ought to have a separate classification - neither fiction nor non-fiction. Sure, it all falls under Politics or Religion (or both or neither, depending on several factors), but that begs the question of who or what entity figures out the category.
*Not intended to stir up a hornet nest of controversy regarding religious or political writings.*
I am a brand new member, a published author(non-fiction) and looking for an appropriate group to join. I saw your reference to Ronald Reagan and I think I've found my niche.
#13 Welcome! Also check out The nonfiction challenge group http://www.librarything.com/groups/nonfictionchallenge
Edited for typo and wrong html
It seems to me that the occasional book of poetry that hit the best-seller list, it was on the non-fiction list.
Poetry and plays are obviously fiction, but distinct from novels and short stories. The only true grey area is autobiographies, but obviously people will stretch the truth to make themselves look good.
Just my opinion, but I think that poetry and plays can be non-fiction just as much as a history book can, and are not categorically fiction. Is the play or poetry telling of real events and real conversations or is it someone's imagination? The first is non-fiction and the second is fiction. Everyone's reality is different.
Being inaccurate or poorly sourced or just "incorrect" is not the same as being fictitious. If the piece is attempting to plainly present the facts, regardless of it fails to do so accurately, it is non-fiction.
Consider that the average encyclopedia is riddled with plenty of errors.
Fiction is made up of texts premised on an agreement (tacit or explicit) between the writer and reader that the matter being described is imaginary or false. For long stretches of human culture, it appears that such texts were nearly unthinkable, let alone worthy of dignification with a genre of their own.
In our mass culture, fiction has been so outrageously successful that we now find it useful to class "non-fiction" as a counterpoint to it. I think this shows what a mutated outlier our mass culture is, relative to the historical baselines. Intellectuals and scribes from more traditional cultures might take our intellectual investment in fiction as an indulgence in delusion.
It's interesting to look at social tensions around the consumption of popular novels in the 18th and 19th centuries. These were widely regarded as a vice, to be sure.
> 9: Unfortunately how Library of Congress and Dewey does it is ingained in all librarians so it can be hard to see things in another way.
Sure, but unfortunately there are aspects of both of those that are "deeply troubling" to some of us.
Any book about any artist seems to get labelled as by that artist, because photographic reproductions of his/her work feature prominently in it. Never mind that the artist in question had zero personal involvement in creating the book, and may even have lived well before photography came about. *
And comics / graphic novels seem to get listed under Dewey 741.5 (that is as a subcategory of fine arts) while it's - mostly - just another format for creating fiction.
* As a student I temporarily had a job as a librarians assistant at the institute of art history at Leiden University. Listing something as Rembrandt by Rembrandt would have gotten me fired instantly.
Moral: Dewey sucks.
ETA: But that's one of the beauties of LT, such idiocies can be overruled by actual people actually caring about the book.
But, in response to OP, I would - if forced to classify that way, but personally I try to avoid it - certainly classify most drama and poetry as fiction. Do you honestly think Shakespeare's MacBeth has much in common with the historical person? Of course there are edge cases: literary (auto)biographies for instance.
Before we malign Dewey, let's understand it. Dewey is set up to classify all books, fiction and non-fiction. It classifies most non-fiction by subject (though there are exceptions, like collections of essays on various subjects and general reference books). It classifies works of literature and the imagination by type (novels, plays, poetry, belles lettres, miscellaneous (jokes, anedotes ...). This is further sub-divided by country/language of origin and then by broad chronological periods.
Public libraries in the United States found rather quickly that their patrons wanted to access novels by author. They didn't care whether the author was American, British or Germany or when s/he lived. So they pulled all the novels (and short story collections by one author) out of the 800s and shelved them separately by author. They left the plays and poetry where they were because their patrons weren't asking for them in the same way they were asking for novels.
So the distinction between getting a Dewey number and not getting a Dewey number have to do with historical trends in patron demand, not with what's fiction and non-fiction.
Large research libraries that still use Dewey (like the one I worked at), still class their novels with Dewey numbers, just like everything else.
Matt: I know the main author rule bothers you, but it's got nothing to do with Dewey. It's the Anglo-American cataloging rules and it goes back to when we were typing cards. You didn't type a separate subject card for an author who was the main entry. So making the artists main entries saved typing a card. I personally prefer it in my own catalog because I have absolutely no idea who wrote my Picasso books. I very seldom even read the text. I just have them for the pictures. So keeping them together under Picasso makes sense to me. I realize that your use of your library is completely different.
Pace aulsmith. I do realize that thing is not Dewey's doing. And I wouldn't dream of suggesting your method is "wrong". (Though I remember being perplexed by that rule when I first encountered it, and still personally think it's not the best idea for a rule).
Yeah, typing out those cards was the essence of my job back when. In case of your example: for the alphabetical catalogue we would have made one for the person who wrote the book and one for Picasso. And then there would have been the cards for the thematic catalogue. A lot of work, but it makes perfect sense if you have a lot of such books (like that institute of art history). But I do realize it might be overkill for many other libraries.
They left the plays and poetry where they were because their patrons weren't asking for them in the same way they were asking for novels.
It wouldn't even occur to me to look for either poetry or plays in the non-fiction section of a library. I guess historical trends in patron demand, to borrow your expression, were different here. Fascinating.
24: I have to say that I find it very annoying to have to roam all over the library to find a single literary author's work. Now they have all the novels divided by genre so you might have to go four of five places to find all their stuff.
Library of Congress is much more sensible. Each author's works in alphabetical order by title followed by the criticism of the work in alphabetical order by critic. But public library patrons would hate to have to look up a number to find their favorite author.
Wow, you actually typed cards. OCLC came out while I was in library school, so I never experienced that (though I did file them and pull them)
Wow, you actually typed cards.
Yes, thousands of them. I'm a dinosaur ;-)
Humph, Matt, Isn't it terrible to realize that so many kids today have never had the joy of using Clay Tablets.
Bring back 'cuniform' I say.
Absolutely. Such a wonderful medium. Well, how many other types of books can you actually bake, for instance? Try putting your Kindle in the oven ;-)
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