David Sedaris insisted last week that his essays, which are famously full of embellishments, should be filed under non-fiction because only about 3% of what he writes is untrue. "I’ve always been a huge exaggerator,"he said in an online Q&A on Time‘s Web site, "but when I write something, I put it on a scale. And if it’s 97% true, I think that’s true enough. I’m not going to call it fiction because 3% of it isn’t true."
Apparently Barnes & Noble doesn’t care what Mr. Sedaris thinks: an official chart distributed to publishers that shows sales figures for the week ending 06/23 defiantly has Mr. Sedaris’s new book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, listed under "Adult Fiction Hardcover." With 22,279 copies sold, it’s number one with a bullet.
Ouch, though! Still, ouch.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for B&N called yesterday to say that though Engulfed in Flames was classified as "fiction" in the bestseller list they send to publishers, they nevertheless consider the book non-fiction. (Someone told New York the same thing.) The reason it appeared in fiction is that on their Web site, B&N considers all essay collections fiction. As Tom Burke, excutive vice president of e-commerce for Barnes & Noble.com, explains: "Our bookstores merchandise the title in the Essay section of our Literature category. Online at Barnes & Noble.com, we classify literary essays, both fiction and nonfiction, under the general category of Fiction & Literature."
Well, OK. Except, some might say that makes no sense!
For what it’s worth, this week’s Bookscan has Engulfed in Flames under non-fiction. The book registered 77,000 copies sold (which means the actual number is somewhat higher), making it the bestselling hardcover, in fiction and in non-fiction, of the week.