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Fiction and poetry

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Jan 20, 2009, 4:19am Top

I'm not a librarian and only know what the blog post mentioned. But could some enlightened soul explain to me why if all of fiction and poetry is one category, all the rest aren't just Non-fiction?

Edited: Jan 20, 2009, 5:04am Top

I just asked the same question in the main thread, moving it here:

Does all fiction go under "Fiction and Poetry", regardless of the subject of the fiction?

What about non-fictional poetry? Is The Cataract of Lodore "Fiction and Poetry" or "Geology"? Oh, there isn't a Geology - "Science" certainly doesn't seem right.

Edited to fix touchstone.

Jan 20, 2009, 5:06am Top

I thought that the main point way back when the whole shebang was being debated was that we could move away from having Fiction as a top level category and devolve it to separate fiction categories from the outset - wasn't this what was going to set this apart from other classification systems? There was a lot of debate that went into selecting the fiction top-level splits. I'm disappointed that not only was it in vain, but Fiction became a broader category encompassing Poetry. Not what I expected ....

Jan 20, 2009, 5:20am Top

>3 klarusu:

I didn't make the decision, and I see where you're coming from, but where the splits take place is not as important as whether they do and what the are. I mean, ferns are taking up a whole order, and almost all living creatures are jammed together in another.

Jan 20, 2009, 5:21am Top

One argument for lumping it all together is that the levels are fundamentally about a library's ability to CHOP the system off at one point or another. Are there libraries that won't want to subdivide by genre, but just put all fiction by alphabetical order? I think there might be. Ultimately the form of the number isn't as important as being clear and giving libraries the ability to lump or split as fits their collection.

Jan 20, 2009, 6:30am Top

Are there libraries that won't want to subdivide by genre, but just put all fiction by alphabetical order?

Fair point - I guess to a degree, a classification system has to accomodate predicted usage otherwise libraries won't be inclined to adopt it (but from a user perspective, I would still like to see a split at top level for fiction/poetry etc - if it's justified for non-fiction, then it's justified for fiction).

I've posted this elsewhere but actually it fits better on this thread, I think. Norton Critical Editions and others - fiction or lit crit? - the current one I'm reading has a higher page count on lit crit than the actual work ...

Jan 20, 2009, 6:54am Top

Also no idea where to put Graphic Novels - fiction or comics? Kind of problem devolving the fiction category at top level would have avoided, maybe, don't know ...

Jan 20, 2009, 8:21am Top

Yes, it's quite confusing... I went with comics just because when someone says "fiction" the immediate idea is that of a traditional book while a graphic novel is still something that doesn't necessarily fall under "fiction" for the majority...

Jan 20, 2009, 8:36am Top

If poetry is to be combined with anything I would put it with Drama. They both have the same problems that they could be fiction, hidtory, etc.

Jan 20, 2009, 9:02am Top

One argument for lumping it all together is that the levels are fundamentally about a library's ability to CHOP the system off at one point or another. Are there libraries that won't want to subdivide by genre, but just put all fiction by alphabetical order?

But I can't imagine any library would alphabetise Fiction and Poetry together as one large lumped section, surely Poetry would never sensibly be intermingled with fiction?

Jan 20, 2009, 9:08am Top

I agree that I would never expect poetry to be with fiction although I would expect to see it as a division under literature. I do agree that it fits better with drama than novels or short stories.

Jan 20, 2009, 10:47am Top

I think Fiction and poetry is a real waste of time. A lot of my books would go there, but I would never search for them under such a general classification. I have science fiction, mysteries, poetry by one author, poetry collections by era or theme - that's what I care about and what I think any library user would care about

Jan 20, 2009, 11:31am Top


Yes but we are just doing the top level at the moment. In time (probably months) we will probably do the next level down which for fiction will be SF, Crime, Romance etc.

Jan 20, 2009, 11:56am Top

By that logic, all non-fiction should be lumped in a box that said Non-Fiction.

If you are classifying non-fiction, science, then fiction, mystery has just as much validity.

Furthermore there is no value to the casual participant in lumping all fiction in one box.

I don't really care what Libraries do, but if I could get more information about a work of fiction (with a real classification) then I might be tempted to participate. But just to lump everything in one box, and wait for something later to receive a benefit is not a good use of my time.

Jan 20, 2009, 12:50pm Top

There is NO cataloging system that will appeal to everyone.

Jan 20, 2009, 1:28pm Top

And this is just the top level. There will be finer classifications at the next level down.

Jan 20, 2009, 1:31pm Top

#12 & #14 Yep, agree, see post 3 and Tim's reply ... don't entirely agree with the rationale but I can see absolutely no justification for putting Fiction and Poetry together even if you agree with most of what Tim said ...

Jan 20, 2009, 8:04pm Top

Do illustrated children's books belong under comics or fiction?

Jan 20, 2009, 8:43pm Top

poetry. is. not. fiction.

Jan 21, 2009, 2:19am Top

Quoth the bard, not fiction be
The measured lines of poetry,
Since dolphins woods inhabit do,
Santa Claus comes down the flu,
And Beatrice cannot by luck
Escape her fate on Ragnarök.

Thank you. Thank you. And now, good night. Tomorrow, I'll draw something.

Edited: Jan 21, 2009, 2:33am Top

Maybe Dewey shouldn't be thrown under the train. The end result of a classification system is to help the library user find what they are looking for and there are all levels of users. Think about how you look for books in a library? While I understand what LT is trying to do I think it is being too general and forgotten about the people who are looking just for Children's Books or Poetry or Science fiction. On the other hand most people don't know the difference between a memoir and an autobiography and one catagory of Biography/Autobiography would do. You are dammed if you do or if you don't in this one!

Jan 21, 2009, 8:58am Top

and I afraid I could not resist classifying Ovids Art of love as self-help, even though it is poetry (at least in the latin)

Jan 22, 2009, 2:14am Top

Of course Poetry is not Fiction. If it was, the category could be called Fiction. Any "and" categories is kind of a kludge.

Business and Economics.
Technology and Engineering.
Travel and Geography.

Fiction and Poetry.

Jan 22, 2009, 11:32am Top

>18 slothman: I hope that picture books will be a subset (or maybe sub-subset) of Fiction. Most but not all are children's books, and, of course, many are non-fiction.

Jan 22, 2009, 2:31pm Top

19 & 20

On old bestseller lists, poetry was usually placed with non-fiction.

Jan 22, 2009, 4:00pm Top

19 & 20> agree wholeheartedly.

And as to 23: well, yes and no. The "And" means that you aren't claiming that poetry is fiction. But there still should be a natural reason for the combination. Technology & engineering I understand, and travel & geography, even though it grates to put them together. But fiction and poetry just doesn't work in that way. How about literary criticism & pets ? I'm not claiming they are the same, because there's an "and" there....

Jan 22, 2009, 7:54pm Top


Oh, fiction and poetry do work together in that sense, as "stuff not considered factual by the author or readers". (Tortured phrasing to dodge the question of works of alleged nonfiction that bear no more resemblance to actual reality than an average episode of Looney Tunes.)

Jan 23, 2009, 8:55am Top

27> ...stuff not considered factual...

But as others have pointed out, poetry can be, and sometime is, factual. http://www.librarything.com/work/4352350 is a case in point.

Whether it's poetry is debatable, but it shall be remembered for a very long time.

Jan 23, 2009, 10:35am Top

coffee not working I must ramble aimlessly
I think maybe if we go elsewhere Japan for example,the notion of poetry being an "and" to anything would be bizzare.

Poetry as it is used today is truth,raw.

So it gets its own place, with its own subsets.
Like the blaspheming #20 who's implying there is no Sanity Clause,there's story poetry,subset titled 'that stuff our teachers tried to scare us off with'

My mind links Poetry with Art,with Music,with Psychology,with Religion.

20 where's the drawing.

Jan 23, 2009, 3:51pm Top

Because fiction is such a big category, I think poetry is kept away from it so as not to be subsumed by it.

Jan 26, 2009, 12:56pm Top

Where would you put the Odyssee and Ilias? I clicked "Fiction and poetry" for these books in Ancient Greek, but I think the same would go for the translated versions:


Jan 26, 2009, 1:11pm Top

If we had separate categories for fiction and poetry, I would put all the translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey under poetry, including prose translations, to keep everything together.

Jan 26, 2009, 6:24pm Top

As a reader, some day I would love to see Fiction broken into many sub-categories. If I like Historical Fiction, it would be great to find other Historical Fiction books in the same area, rather than having to search the entire fiction category to find them. . . mystery, thriller, romance, general fiction, chick lit, christian, western, etc.

Jan 27, 2009, 8:55am Top

Broking down fiction doesn't seem very sensible. First you would have to define the genres and then think how you would select the main genre for any book. I would almost say most books have more than one genre. In most cases the "main" genre is easy to pick up, but often it is not.

Plus dividing the books like this would make it very hard to find the books of a certain author. Even a simple example like Alistair MacLean, people would probably be interested in all of his books, but would they be divided to genres war and suspense? What about authors you could divide to, say, romance, crime and suspense? The librarian in one library might put all the books in the same genre, but what about the librarian in a different library?

Edited: Jan 27, 2009, 12:55pm Top

In some ways, what we are doing here is to reflect categorization that we already doing. Hence, the look at tagging.

It is quite common for some genres to be separated from the umbella fiction, such as mystery, science fiction (with or without fantasy), short stories. This is true of both libraries and bookstores. (Foreign language fiction is usuallyseparated out also, but is not relevant to what we are doing here). I agree that there are a lot mushy boundaries, e.g.: thriller - suspense - crime - mystery.

The problem is that we may want to break down fiction because there are so many books under this header. I may have 1,500 books in my own library that might be labeled as "fiction" (they aren't, as I don't label something with both fiction and mystery), my next biggest subject is travel with 340 works, considerably less than fiction. So some of us might want to have some degree of proportionality in classification scheme.

For same authors, we are quite used to for titles of non-fiction authors to be separated from each other. So, likewise for fiction. But in ones own home library, you may have your scheme. Our own library is divided up like this:
Classic fiction with nice bindings
Classic fiction with ordinary bindings/ dust jackets
Recent fiction
Fiction with an Arthurian bent (a category that starts with what one periodical calls the Seven: C S Lewis, Charles, Williams, Dorothy Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfied, George Macdonald, G.K. Chesterton; and also includes non-fiction)
Science Fiction/fantasy (not in the above group).

Jan 27, 2009, 12:59pm Top

How do bookstores handle the problem since they generally break fiction up into genres. Do they split the authors or do they keep them together, or aren't there very many writers who cross genre boundaries.

Jan 27, 2009, 1:24pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 28, 2009, 7:10am Top

#36 "How do bookstores handle the problem since they generally break fiction up into genres. Do they split the authors or do they keep them together"

Well known authors get multiple copies in both genres.
Less well known authors only get one shelf spot usually in the genre of their most popular or recent title.

That's what I've noticed anyway.

Jan 29, 2009, 5:12am Top

Some authors use pseudonyms when writing under a genre they aren't known for...

Jan 30, 2009, 6:44pm Top

There are lots of authors who cross genre boundaries. Linnea Sinclair, for instance, writes books that are both space opera and romance, and her publisher is clever enough to have different covers for the books when they're sold as science fiction or romance.

Feb 2, 2009, 1:40pm Top

Greetings! David and I have been busy compiling and analyzing all your comments, and a post with new top levels is forthcoming!

In the interim, take a look on Thingology (http://www.librarything.com/thingology) at the summary of the OSC meeting we had in Denver last weekend.

To clear up some confusion, take a look at how facets/formats and top levels/call numbers will be organized:

The first letter is audience (A, adult, Y, young adult, C, children's) The second letter is format (B, book, A, audio, G, graphic-novel, etc.) Other facets could be for whatever else needs to be called out—language, special collection, etc.

And so you have

AB 123.321 - Lost Moon
AA 123.321 - Lost Moon in an audio format
AG 123.321 - Lost Moon the graphic-novel
CB 123.321 - Goodnight Moon (children's book)

A library that had no childrens' books would ignore the first facet. A library entirely of Braille books would ignore the second. A library that wants to put all graphic novels together in one area may do so if they wish, or interfile them. Same with CDs, Audio books, etc. Facets allow for this flexibility.

Feb 23, 2009, 12:24pm Top

Please continue discussions on the new topics
FICTION and/or


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

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