Thursday, 14 July 2011

I've come to the conclusion that literary fiction is NOT a genre ...

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Today is my last blogging day until August 1st (except a scheduled post I have with Karen Walker on Saturday for her Following The Whispers e-book blog tour). I can't WAIT to get out of Athens and sit on the beach and clear my head and forget forget forget that computers even exist!

So, I just have one question for you today. A question I see all over the place and a question which is always answered with a different slant. It's a question that I think does not have one particular answer and is semi-dependent on an individual's interpretation. I'm also beginning to wonder whether we are all attempting to answer this question the wrong way.

What is literary fiction?

I'm beginning to think that literary fiction has become more of a writing 'style' than a genre. Because seriously, when you think about it, you can write any genre to sound literary, can't you? What do you think?

Have a great summer!


30 comments:

  1. Certainly any genre can be literary. But I think literary is it's own genre as well. A book about everyday life that really makes you think. I mean, other than calling it "plain" fiction what else would you call that?

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  2. Great topic. I think there definitely is a category of literary fiction, but some books blur the line between commercial/genre/literary the way some do between YA and adult. But the difference definitely exists.

    I like Nathan Bransford's def: "In commercial fiction the plot tends to happen above the surface and in literary fiction the plot tends to happen beneath the surface." http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/02/what-makes-literary-fiction-literary.html

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  3. Amie, I'd say 'general fiction' yeah?

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  4. With literary fiction how something is said is more important than what is being said.

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  5. I suppose. But 'general' sounds so boring. :) And 'commercial' sounds fake to me; like your trying to sell your book, not write it.

    I like what Jim said.

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  6. Me too. And I agree whole-heartedly. That's why I think it's better for it to be 'style' rather than a 'genre'. You see what I mean?

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  7. I think literary fiction is like a deep, introspective drama movie.

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  8. Have a good blogging break.

    I think you're right. Genres seem more fluid and debated than they used to be.

    By the way, I mentioned you in my last post.

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  9. I remember something my dad said once:

    "I don't often read a book because I care what the story is about. I usually read a book because I'm interested in how the story's told."

    "Literary Fiction", like "Young Adult" is just a label book sellers use to market books to readers. Neither of them really means that much. Not to me.

    A great book can be literary AND commercial. They're not mutually exclusive, as far as I'm concerned.

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  10. Yes, style.
    And I think it's one of the few areas where that type of style is as important as substance.
    Maybe substance is an even better word than style, come to think of it.

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  11. I don't know what poetry comes under but I enjoy it whatever genre it is.

    Have a lovley vacation and send some sun over to the UK.

    Yvonne.

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  12. ooh. I've never given it much thought before, but yeah, i think you're spot on. Most lit fic i've read have been mysteries, more or less

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  13. I'm not a huge literary fiction fan. Dare I admit that to a writer of "literary fiction?"

    Maybe it's because the pacing is so much slower than what I usually read. More likely it's because I just don't have the voice for it. I think it's fabulous that you do, though, Jessica.

    A lot of what I read is "mainstream," which is more commercial stuff with literary elements. So in answer to your question. I do think that a more commercial book can have literary appeal. But at the same time, there are some wonderful books that don't hold much commercial appeal at all which are great works of art. In that sense I think it can be a genre.

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  14. I would endorse that--that it is more a style than a genre. But it seems to be a style that trumps genre. Books will get pulled from mystery or chick lit or suspense and reshelved if they have a literary style.

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  15. GAH!!! I'm just back and you're just leaving! Here's a high-five as we pass--and I'm headed over to Miss Snark's next.

    As for your question, I'm SO on your team about this. Yes, ANY work can be made to sound literary. I'm currently reading Carrie for the first time--also my first Stephen King book to ever read--and I've been impressed by how "literary" it reads.

    so there. :D <3 Have a divine time by the sea~ ((hugs))

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  16. Ah, Jess, sounds like you are going to get a much-needed break. I so appreciate you hosting me on Saturday just before you go. I agree with you on this one, I think it's a style of writing, because as you said, it can apply to any genre.
    Karen

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  17. The phrase must have been coined to differentiate this type of fiction, to give it clout, class, clever distinction.

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  18. I won't even attempt to answer that because every time we bring up that question on The Literary Lab we get like 200 comments and it ends up a big, messy, nasty (although interesting) kind of fight. Anyway, I don't think young adult fiction is a genre, either. Neither is adult. Literary is just like those. It's a description of a particular style and feel.

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  19. Hrm, good topic. :) While I do think of literary fiction as a category, there are a lot of books that dance on the line.

    So pleased to hear that you're getting some much needed time off. Can I come?

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  20. W/out reading the others, I think literary can be it's own genre which I picture being very character driven with lots of use of symbolism, theme, and poetic devices. But at the same time, I think many genres can use literary devices and have a story with deeper meaning.

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  21. I do agree that a lot of it is style and the quality of writing - but I think it crosses into a genre because of it's themes. In my experience lit fiction is often about issues and political/social commentary.

    Hope you have a great holiday!

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  22. Interesting points to ponder, but I remain undecided. I think the genre and true definition will always remain a mystery to me and my rattled lil' pea brain!

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  23. Interesting. You do have a point. Will have to think about this one.

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  24. I think literary fiction tends to be more character based (sometimes, with not a whole lot of plot going on) while genre fiction is more plot-based. That said, I've read plenty of genre fiction that is both. Go figure.

    P.S. Nice to meet you today!

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  25. Hi Jess. Have a nice holiday. We will be waiting for your return.

    I agree with you on the 'style' rather than a 'genre'...I've read in Writing magazine that this is a subject of debates and discussions in the literary world. I keep asking myself this, too.

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  26. Great post! I certainly don't have a concept of what Literary Fiction means, LOL!

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  27. I disagree. I wouldn't call Literary Fiction a style, because there are so many different writing styles found in Literary Fiction. In Literary Fiction you'll find writing that ranges from the telegraphed style in the short stories of William Lychack to the slow drawn out taffypull that is Faulkner. It can be a love story like The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard or an historical portrait like Gunter Grass's Crabwalk. Literary Fiction can best be defined as a very large genre in which you may find several subcategories, historical, southern, science fiction, etc. But above all else Literary Fiction is any fiction that focuses on the greater questions of what it means to be human.

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  28. If it doesn't read like a rough draft, it is probably literary fiction. Unfortunately, most genre writers seem to publish their rough drafts because they assume their readers won't know the difference, and they are probably right. Literary fiction respects respects the reader by putting quality first. Genre is only concerned with marketing, sales, and getting the money.

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  29. +JMJ+

    This reminds me of the Literary Fiction Blog Hop for giveaways of books that can be described as literary. When the host was recruiting bloggers to sign up, she made it clear that YA novels, Romance novels, and the like were not to be offered as prizes. One must respect the integrity of the "Literary Fiction" brand. ;-)

    Anyway, Literary Fiction might not be a real genre, but it's certainly a box we all have in our minds.

    And then there are hilarious articles like this from a Romance Web site I used to read a lot:

    http://www.likesbooks.com/262.html

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