Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fiction is better!

People who write non-fiction are at the bottom of the literary caste hierarchy. There, I’ve said it. The nasty little secret shared by those of us who have had a factual book published (or to use a more precise phrase due to my brother - ‘incomprehensible tome’).

Writers of fiction invent believable characters, wrestle with the intricacies of plot development, elaborate descriptive prose and fundamentally seek to engage the interests and emotions of their readers. To succeed requires a mastery of all these skills in isolation, together with their synthesis into a consummate reading experience. No wonder the successful author is lionised throughout the world. By contrast, we humble explainers are consigned to niches. We apparently engage the intellect alone, and hopefully even that without baffling our rather specialist readership.

So here is what puzzles me. As I read novels which dissect with forensic skill failing relationships, brutally explicit scenes of betrayal, violence and torture, lurid sex (well, not often!) and character assassination, I wonder a lot about the author’s nearest and dearest.

Do they marvel at the disgusting, unsettling imagery evidently all-too-present in their beloved’s mind? Do they wonder if their conversations, personal foibles, intimate conversations and actions are now being exposed to public appetite? Do they wonder: ‘if this is not about me, then who’?

Concretely, how does Richard Morgan get away with it?