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Non-Fiction Question

Non-Fiction Readers

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Oct 14, 2011, 6:50pm Top

Are books like In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City considered non-fiction even though they are novelizations of non-fictional events? Just curious on a general opinion of the group.

Edited: Oct 14, 2011, 7:02pm Top

Well when I ran my Waldenbooks, we filed them under True Crime so....

I know I may get crap for this but OJ's book was considered a biography.

Oct 17, 2011, 1:59pm Top

If it's "fictionalized", I consider it fiction. The challenge is when the author doesn't tell you it's fictionalized. I've read some biographies that were so undocumented that I had to wonder how much was pure speculation!

Oct 18, 2011, 12:56pm Top

I think it depends a lot on the individual book -- on the extent, and the nature of the fictionalization.

The vast majority of The Devil in the White City -- everything regarding Daniel Burnham and the fair, and most of the coverage of serial killer Henry Holmes -- is straightforward non-fiction, documented in conventional fashion. The fact that Larson inferred some events for which there were (by design) no witnesses and no written records doesn't, for me, take it out of the non-fiction category.

Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm falls into the same category for me: The chapters about the final moments of the Andrea Gail are imagined -- and clearly flagged as such -- but they're rooted in what is known about storm waves, ships, and drowning. Again, for me, the book as a whole is non-fiction.

In Cold Blood is an interesting case. Sure, it's speculative . . . but it's also exhaustively documented, and based on extensive research dealing with the only two living eyewitnesses to the events it recreates. Capote may have written a "non-fiction novel," but in some important sense he's closer to the reality of the events he describes than (say) a historian writing about the European middle ages.

Obviously, in this more than most things . . . your mileage may vary.

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