Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Lutefisk of Literature

I read very little fiction. I want to say NO fiction, but I have been caught halfway through reading a storybook right now. This is from an article by Rob Nixon. I have no idea who Mr. Nixon is, but I like his comparison of nonfiction to lutefisk.

"Nonfiction has long been treated as the lutefisk on the literary menu, unlikely to be the special of the day. The genre emits a whiff of the déclassé, served (especially in literature departments) with a garnish of condescension. The problem starts with the word: Like "childless" (why not "child-free"?), "nonfiction" packs a lot of social judgment. Nonfiction may be real, but in matters of creativity, it's not quite the real thing."  Etc.


Margadant said...

Not a bad comparison. My father-in-law always said that how you prepared the fish was crucial. He was always on hand in the kitchen supervising his daughters handling of the lutefisk. Fiction benefits from the same scrutiny before it is ingested.

Anonymous said...

well, really, it's hard to compare genres. If anything is probably lutefisk, it's probably poetry, which has a rabid but very small following. It remains strong in academia and on the street. The main problem with nonfiction is, one, it's so broad as a genre it doesn't really exist. Memoir has been the dominant (Oprah) literary mode of the past decade or so, but is probably on the wane (just as I finish mine, I might add). But nonfiction includes cookbooks and your grandkid's Weekly Readers. It's an old, old tradition which includes Augustine, Thoreau, Twain etc . . . nothing to sneeze at.

The novel will likely always be thought of as the form which best bridges the gap between the commercial and the cultural. Commercial writers seek to distract, like TV; real literature seeks to change. Most writers of all types envy poets, who apparently consider themselves above commercial considerations. Poets envy them back, for having readers.

michael white