The genre is called creative nonfiction, and nobody does it better than John McPhee. This year marks the 50th anniversary of McPhee’s first published work, a portrait of basketball star Bill Bradley. Since then he’s written about dozens of topics — especially nature and conservation.
The Wikipedia entry for creative nonfiction distinguishes it from technical writing because the latter is “not primarily written in service to its craft.” I’m not sure what that means — it sounds like creative nonfiction is writing for writing’s sake. If you suggest to John McPhee that he writes “in service to his craft” I think he’ll be surprised.
I maintain that creative nonfiction is true technical writing. Although it might not guide a reader through a series of steps, it informs the reader about a scientific or technical subject.
Judge for yourself as McPhee describes Georgia’s Cumberland Island. Continue reading