Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Is Non-Fiction Writing Art?

As I work on tightening up chapter 3 of Einstein's Jewish Science, I can't help but think of non-fiction books that I really love, books like David Quammen's The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, or Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, or Loius Menand's The Metaphysical Club or classic works from Tom Wolfe or Truman Capote that are so incredible fascinating or powerful. When non-fiction is done right, it is incredibly affective.

But is it art? Does the fact that the author is bound by reality limit the creativity of the act in such a way as to make it mere stylized journalism or is the process of stroy telling enough to make non-fiction writing art? Is it art in some cases and not others? If so, what are the criteria that differentiate one from the other?