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Monday, June 3, 2013

Literary Fiction

I enjoy reading "literary fiction," loosely defined as a novel that is more character driven than plot driven and where the reader is expected to do a little work, read between the lines and be engaged in something more than simply: "what happens next in plot" or, "who done it." In literary fiction, readers are asked to discern hidden meanings and nuance while experiencing both the external and internal lives of characters. Every word, every phrase, counts for something in literary fiction. It's not for skimming or quick reads. Literary authors are careful about such things as foreshadowing, word choice, metaphor, character depth, setting, atmosphere and internal conflict.

There is little worthwhile and lasting in commercial 'thriller' fiction, stories in which we are presented with a plot puzzle as to who committed the murder and/or how the culprit can be brought to justice. I really don't care anymore. These novels are so utterly forgettable. I suppose they are entertaining, but I'd rather be entertained with something of depth and meaning, something that changes me, and that I can carry forward. Commercial novels, or "plotters" all read about the same to me. Read one of these and you've read them all. I can't remember one from the other after little more than a week.

Give me Olive Kitteridge, The English Patient, Love in the Time of Cholera, Suttree, All the Pretty Horses, Affliction, The Human Stain etc etc. If you want a murder in your story try, "We Need to Talk about Kevin."

There is a reason crime novelists can crank em out by the dozens. Once they have the formula, they just plug in different scenarios and voila, another generic novel gets published. It's up to us readers to demand better than pablum. Let's read literary fiction and kill dumbed down writing.

...and then there is 50 Shades of Grey and its sequels...writing doesn't get much worse than as exhibited in those novels. Even steamy sex can be hard to enjoy with writing this bad. Certainly, these books have garnered huge success, which speaks volumes about the degree to which horrible writing is accepted by the reading public. Surely we, as writers, can demand higher standards, standards created by the authors of literary fiction.