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lunababymoonchild

Reading literary versus popular fiction

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I've always preferred literary fiction (though I might narrow that down even further to 'transgressive fiction'). I generally find plot driven books to be simplistic and tedious (often, to the point that they feel too much like they've been influenced by the visual arts, movies in particular). 

 

One thing I've noticed in a lot of contemporary fiction is the attempt to blur the lines. Books that are aimed at people who like very plot driven narratives with lots of dialogue and short chapters but who don't actually like reading. They've been catered to with these books that read like film scripts with easy-to-visualise scenes. This is a bad trend in my opinion. 'Normal People', for example, won various awards and received rave reviews as a piece of literary fiction, but I would absolutely describe that book as popular fiction designed for those who don't like reading very much. In fact, I'd say it was nothing more than a teen romance novel. 

 

I fear literary fiction is dying out. There's certainly no money in it.  

Edited by hux

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12 hours ago, hux said:

I've always preferred literary fiction (though I might narrow that down even further to 'transgressive fiction'). I generally find plot driven books to be simplistic and tedious (often, to the point that they feel too much like they've been influenced by the visual arts, movies in particular). 

 

One thing I've noticed in a lot of contemporary fiction is the attempt to blur the lines. Books that are aimed at people who like very plot driven narratives with lots of dialogue and short chapters but who don't actually like reading. They've been catered to with these books that read like film scripts with easy-to-visualise scenes. This is a bad trend in my opinion. 'Normal People', for example, won various awards and received rave reviews as a piece of literary fiction, but I would absolutely describe that book as popular fiction designed for those who don't like reading very much. In fact, I'd say it was nothing more than a teen romance novel. 

 

I fear literary fiction is dying out. There's certainly no money in it.  

 

I'm still not entirely sure what literary fiction actually is and I aim to be as widely read as possible so read as many different things as I can. I spend my time seeking out books and authors that I've never heard of and in that I'm quite successful. I don't think that there's anything wrong with plot driven books and, when I'm tired, I indulge in those too. As said, I like a wide variety in my reading.  That said I do draw the line at some books : Barbara Cartland for example I just can't face and I read the first three paragraphs of George R R Martin's Game of Thrones opening volume and could not continue, ditto with Wilbur Smith. I did manage to get near the end of one of the Marquis De Sade's famous books but could not finish it. So, for me it depends on the individual author rather than genre. However, as the article said, reading too much literary fiction is as bad as not reading enough and, confusingly I thought, the same holds true for contemporary fiction.

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Thanks for the link to that article. Interesting read. I may even venture into reading the entire study report to which the article in turn links.

 

Besides the slight change in terminology, the question seems to cover the discussion regarding the merits of literary fiction vs genre fiction, which is a rather recurring theme in press contributions dealing with writing. I feel that I do not entirely capture that debate, to the point even that it feels a bit contrived sometimes, so I will stick to some loose general reflections:

 

- more and more, I have the impression that the line between literature and genre fiction is blurring. Sure, there are still many authors that are situated at one clear side of the question, but there are more and more authors who, in my opinion, can impossibly be situated on one side. Joe Abercrombie is an example of those. There clearly is a plot in his books, but then his characters are very strongly developed and the language he uses very refined. Also, the more you read Abercrombie, the more you get the impression that his concoted fictional middle-ages world in fact lays the ground for a very subtle critical view at our present society(ies). Eggers is another example of such writers in my opinion. Zeitoun and What's the What clearly tell a story, but through the story also offer a critical view.

 

-  I find it interesting that this study seems to base the distinction between both literature and popular/genre fiction on the development of the characters and assumes that characters are less developed in popular fiction because it would focus more on the plot. Whereas, I would feel that it's near impossible to have a good plot without character development. In the end, the way characters react to and deal with events, is a fundamental part of any plot. Strong characters drive a plot.

 

Anyway, I think this is the first time that some kind of actual study has been performed in this respect, which, again in my humble opinion, hands it more merrit than the usual theoretic contemplations on the subject.  

 

Well, just my 5 cents.

 

Tom

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