One of the characters I adore is Lennie Briscoe who was portrayed by the late but greater that great Jerry Orbach. When I was formulating this post I was reminded of a scene when Briscoe, the king of one-liners, was searching through some high-class trash at a Hollywood film studio. He had a great comment about the quality of the garbage.
In thinking about that scene and Law & Order as a whole, the show had a great way of taking non-fiction, “ripped from the headlines” ideas and fictionalizing the story of the events.
A conundrum can develop in mixing fiction and non-fiction. I’ve started dealing with this issue on my blog. The task for me has been changing gears in my reviews between fiction and non-fiction reviews.
For me, in doing my book reviews, I am using one decidedly different method for addressing fiction and an entirely different method for non-fiction.
With fiction I am paying attention to character development, the plot, sub-plots, pacing, dialogue, etc.
Not the case with non-fiction. Was the book adequately researched? How are different theories presented? Are there shortfalls in the premise behind the book? Is the author of the proper pedigree or do they possess the proper credentials to address the subject matter? These and other assorted questions form the foundation for non-fiction reviews. Oh yes, I also like it when non-fiction writers can actually write, though I enjoy this with writers of fiction as well.
I recently read a book about intrigue, murder, mystery and mayhem set in our nation’s capital and while I didn’t dislike it completely, I was left with a ho-hum feeling afterwards. Based upon the subject matter alone, I just knew it was going to be a great, speedy read that I would love.
Not the case.
On the other hand I am currently reading a non-fiction work on quantum physics and it is a page turner. And I don’t even have a science background.
Reviews are an important part of the writing process; however, fiction and non-fiction are two entirely different types of writing. I think that as reviewers it is important that we embrace this and address the work in question in the proper light with the proper filters.
This may seem all too obvious, but from some of the reviews I have read lately, I’m not so sure it is as clear as it might be.
For me the important thing that I keep in mind is that neither fiction nor non-fiction is any better or worse than the other. However, I believe that as a reviewer you have to keep in mind there is a focus to the work and that in either fiction or non-fiction you need to give a hard look to make sure that the intent of the work is met and that the it is done in a method that will serve the intended audience.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to comment.