Fiction vs. non-fiction

It’s funny how so many readers are divided into fiction and non-fiction camps. I swing both ways personally, but have often heard, “Oh, I don’t have time for fiction” from the latter (mostly from students, or the type of people who think that reading is wasted effort if it won’t result in making you sound smarter at parties) and “I can’t read that, it’s non-fiction” from the former (even when I’m sure to qualify that the book I’m recommending, “reads like a novel!”). My old man is a fiction guy, which probably makes sense to anyone who knows him. He read my latest website entry, and had this to say in an email. I’m posting it in its entirety because no one expresses a thought quite like him, and also for the benefit of anyone who wants a book recommendation or two:

You haven't changed your blog in quite a while now and I find myself just a little bit haunted your remarks about book neurosis. I find myself washed over with really good material and although it's not necessary to go through the stuff, it seems to help.

Who wouldn't like Noir Detective novels? What's not to love about Elmore Leonard knock offs? James W. Hall does stories about a Key Largo fishing guide who solves crimes and in the last one I read has an uncanny talent for making fishing lures. The stuff is beautifully put together and actually very informative--some of the best descriptions of the Florida Keys and its tourist trap towns as you'll find anywhere and all narrated by Frank Muller.

And driving around under a full moon listening to the English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, with its rich layering of historical and emotional memory--that's in Erica's car. In Mom's it's the latest Dexter book, not with the characterization and pathos of the TV show but worth it if you have any kind of obsession.

Or Andrew Vachss--after going through a disc of his arch descriptions of the New York low life, the juvenile prison system and child torture, I do my research and learn the fellow is a NY lawyer who only represents children, did time in Biafra, is married to a prosecutor who specializes in crimes against children. Well, he lives the life of his stories.

Does this stuff help me get on with the business of the day? Well, maybe. But you get an idea of the mix that the We Need to Talk About Kevin disc is a part of and maybe how each of these stories manages to throw out references to the others. Spooky.

And from me personally--I just finished listening to two pop-psychology books that were splendid, if rough on my self-esteem--Being Wrong, and The Invisible Gorilla, both of which aim to alert you in inaccuracies you (and everyone else) experience in everyday life. Next up on the list is the new Michael Cunningham book about the fictional New York city art world, which I am expecting great things from after reading his snappy interview about it on Art Info. So, book neurosis has passed! Now onto art neurosis, as it should be.