I have a confession to make, my doves, regarding the genre of literary fiction.
I hate it. More accurately, I hate that I love it. Me and LitFic, we have a strained relationship. Allow me to explain.
Literary fiction is defined as a written work that focuses on the subjects of the narrative. It is characterized by introspective, in-depth character studies of complex people. It focuses less on plot and more on the inner story of the characters, written in an elegant and layered way. It deals with universal problems.
An exterior requirement would be critical acclaim, and a “seriousness” of tone. Basically, the majority of the books you were required to read in high school and college were literary fiction.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are works of literary fiction that I truly enjoy, like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I appreciate all the thought that goes into these pieces and they deserve every bit of critical acclaim they earn.
It’s so much freakin’ work to read them—I can’t even imagine writing them. I like symbolism as much as the next word nerd, but sometimes a curtain is just a curtain, you know?
Plus, and I mean no offense here, I feel literary fiction has sort of ousted any other genre as viable in today’s market. If it isn’t literary, it isn’t worth your time, seem to be the general consensus. I think people forget that other genres, with plot driven works or character driven ones, have just as much merit.
In short, if the literary fiction genre were a real live person, its personality would be that of a loveable asshole. Slightly egotistical. Not able to laugh at itself with any kind of frequency. But still nice, helpful, insightful—maybe a little absent-minded. The kind of person you invite over to cocktail parties but not always to watch the big game.
We’re friends…just not good ones.
Now, there’s talk that literary fiction is dead, which sales-wise, okay, maybe it’s hurting—but it’s all I ever hear about in the news. What’s with that discrepancy?
What do you all think? Is literary fiction on the chopping block, or is it just coming of age? Should I repair my strained relationship?