Thursday, July 23, 2009

Defining Definitions: Nonfiction

Welcome to another edition of Defining Definitions! Here I shall attempt to define an apparently ambiguous term...


According to, the poor man's OED, nonfiction is "the branch of literature comprising works of narrative prose dealing with or offering opinions or conjectures upon facts and reality, including biography, history, and the essay."

This means, for those of you who don't know what "facts" or "reality" means, things that are real... the truth... something that can actually be pointed to and exists.

This does not include the Scottish Play, aka MacBeth. MacBeth is what we in the literate world call fiction. It is drama (or poetry, I suppose, if you're reading it and not watching it). It is not a documentary. Seriously, check out, the poor man's Encyclopedia Britannica, if you don't believe me.

(Incidentally, the reason I bring this up is that the Denver Public Library Central Branch featured an audio version of MacBeth in its Nonfiction Audio CDs display this week, along other great dramatic works such as The Healthy Heart Walking CD and Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. For some reason, Shakespeare's plays are always classified as nonfiction, which I have never understood.)

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