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Pickle Me This

October 18, 2007

Fiction is all right.

I thought Philip Marchand’s article “Why novelists are nervous” was sort of strange, the nervous novelists being John Updike and Philip Roth. Apparently Updike wrote a novel seven years ago that sold poorly and Philip Roth has remarked, somewhat self-deprecatingly, I thought, “The status of literature was much higher when I began writing.”

Oh Philip, fear not! Ben McNally and Book City’s J. Frans Donker are not worried about the status of literature in the slightest. Neither is anybody I know, most of whom devour fiction like it’s pie.

Marchand’s hysteria is the result of the International Festival of Authors now featuring nonfiction writers, Charlotte Gray, Larry Gaudet, David Gilmour and Rudy Wiebe in particular. Which is interesting, I think. One of these writers, Gray, is prolific, acclaimed and, though I’ve not read her work, seems to write nonfiction about as literary as it gets. And then that the other three “nonfictioneers” are novelists first and foremost, which Marchand doesn’t even refer to. Granted we could make something terrible of the fact that market forces have pushed these writers to turn to nonfiction, and the hysteria could continue unabated. But I’d rather take the angle that perhaps nonfiction writers are those who should be nervous. Watch out Margaret MacMillan! The novelists are passing into your ranks. They’re injecting fact with fancy and, I would be willing to bet, the writing has never been so good.

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