I've just read The Discomfort Zone, a memoir by Jonathan Franzen (previously mentioned on my blog here) that I believed, until page 30 or so, to be a novel. Once the realization hit that it was actually non-fiction, I felt a deep disappointment, though if I had been enjoying the read, and I had, what did it matter? It mattered because I had been expecting all the bits of life I'd been ingesting to ultimately Lead To Something, the way they invariably will in a good piece of genre fiction, narrative fiction. A good Tolstoy, where all those different lives would ultimately been seen to be inextricably intertwined, a good Dickens in which the handsome stranger in part two is later proven to be the son of the widow of the powerful landowner sent to jail in part one, a good John Irving in which the beating begins in the first paragraph and doesn't ease up the slightest bit for the next 250 pages. I'd already read The Corrections, after all; I knew what to expect.
No, it's a memoir, and I still enjoyed it and read it to its finish, but without the expectations of It All Coming Together, and of course, it didn't. It wasn't fiction, it was Life. And the realization that accompanied all of this, that Life is actually life and that my own too, will be a memoir and not a novel, well, out of this hole I have not yet climbed.