CNF Definition

“Only dead things bear strict definition.  And literature, to be literature, must be alive.”

~ Bill Roorbach (contemporary creative nonfiction: The Art of Truth, 3.)

And, “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet,” too – but, that knowledge isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to determine what, exactly, is what, in the world of writing.  What is it, we often wonder, that makes one book “Literature,” and another just a mass-market paperback waiting to happen?  Especially in the category of nonfiction – which is so vast a segment of the writing market?

It is, after all, fairly easy to see what delineates the Twilight books from, say, Romeo and Juliet (unless you happen to be a member of the 13-17 year old girl demographic).  Similarly, what separates Edgar Allan Poe from Dan Brown?  In his great book, contemporary creative nonfiction: The Art of Truth, Bill Roorbach says,

             All writers of nonfiction use every tool at their disposal — voice, language, drama, passion, characters, literary talent — and every scrap of learning, to make their marks on paper create something in their readers’ minds that approximates experience, whether that experience be the writer’s father, a baseball game, an idea, or a roasted free-range chicken stuffed with oranges for fragrance (and to keep the breast meat moist).
             Some writers of nonfiction use their tools so magically well that their work can be generally regarded as art.  And these are the writers of what we’ve come to call “creative nonfiction…”(2).


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