Okay, first thing’s first, let me clear this up: non-fiction, when done well, is brilliant. Not at all the tedious and mundane crap that we expect. See Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, for example. Or Capote’s In Cold Blood. There are even more impressive ones, but those two are just my personal favorites. In some ways, writing non-fiction can be more challenging than writing fiction, primarily because the former is restricted by the bounds of reality. In fiction, you can come up with whatever outlandish scenarios and characters you want, provided that you still maintain some flimsy connection to actual life. Obviously, writing fiction has its own challenges, but I do have the utmost respect for non-fiction works, especially those that blur the boundary between reality and imagination.
Having said all that, I still prefer fiction to non-fiction. It’s amazes me how fabricated characters and fabricated worlds can so often move me more than real people and real events can. My favorite book is Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. It’s a collection of narratives from a bunch of loosely connected characters based in New York. There’s a music mogul who takes advantage of teenage girls, a publicist who almost killed hundreds of celebrities, a depressed NYU student who drowned, and a freaking dictator in exile. None of those characters have any similarity whatsoever with my life, yet all of them spoke to me, moved me in a way nobody I’ve met ever did. I won’t talk more about that book, because I think you need to experience it without any preconceptions. Fiction is unapologetically deceitful. You know from the start that you’re being lied to, but you can’t help but be invested in that lie anyway. You fall in love with characters that are too selfless, too reckless, too perfect to be relatable. You loathe tyrannical governments and dystopian futures that are too corrupt and too bleak to be conceivable. Fiction transports us. It offers us an escape from our mundane surroundings but brings us closer to our inner selves. We understand more about our own fears and desires through the figments of someone else’s imagination. I think that’s just fucking neat.