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November 7, 2007

Non-fiction commitment

I’ve decided to push myself to read more non-fiction. Not just because of what Ken McGoogan said (of course not, I am just as disagreeable as he is), but more because of Jared Diamond. Because my diet of constant fiction is like eating solely chocolate when there is ice cream in the world. When I say that Guns Germs and Steel has grown a layer of dust on my bedside, I wish I was employing a figure of speech. Let the facts stand: I am an atrocious housekeeper, and terribly neglectful of all things non-fic. As a purported book lover, I shouldn’t have the nerve to fall asleep at night.

Carol Shields read Guns Germs and Steel. I learned this from the essay her daughter Anne Giardini wrote about her in The Arts of a Writing Life. To me it reads quite obviously from her fiction that Carol Shields must have appreciated non-fiction, for though her imagination was potent enough to dream her into the head of characters so disparate as Larry Weller and Daisy Goodwill Flett, something more would have been required to fill in the worlds around them. And to read Shields is to be immersed in these worlds, their details: mazes, mermaids, quilts and stones, and late night radio. See the quote below, on characters and jobs– that gap between what the novelist knows and what characters do, I think, is best bridged by reading. And gaining an understanding of how the world works, of course, is important not only for writers.

One thought on “Non-fiction commitment”

  1. Crissy Calhoun says:

    Should you be looking for some more non-fiction to follow…

    i just started reading The God Delusion, par Richard Dawkins. He’s a bit flip and if I were religious, I bet I would put it down in a second (or more likely, have never picked it up in the first place). However, being an atheist makes it quite enjoyable.

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