The NYS Writers Institute had an interview with Norman Mailer on May 1, and, on being asked about the difference between fiction and nonfiction, he replied:
I'd say that it's all fiction. I'd say that one of the great swindles that civilization has been pulling on itself is that there are two literary forms - fiction and nonfiction, and that there really is a profound separation between them. And, as far as I'm concerned, nonfiction is fiction. Because you never get it right - in those times which I've really tried to get it absolutely right, when all was done...and I have much more contempt and respect for facts than most nonfiction writers, because I think that most facts are skewed, warped, and twisted in one form or another, whether outright lies or almost correct. And they get put together in these rickety structures which are then called history until somebody else comes along and casts it down for a new structure, and so forth. So, in that sense, it's fiction. Whereas in fiction, what you're doing is dealing with things that are not facts, but you're trying to move truthfully among several imaginations when you're writing. And that makes for some very interesting structures, which I think have more tensile strength, and - how should I put it - when you twist them, they tend to twist back, whereas with history, once you twist it - once you demolish a fact in history - it's gone. The history is savaged. It was a serious fact, and now it's seriously wrong.
Great Swindle? Uh oh, Norman sounded almost like a feminist there for a minute.
The blog of the NYS Writers Institute.
Thanks to my friend Bob Wright, for this.