Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I happen to be more on the commercial side. That's not to say I don't like literary at all. Yes, I know, in a recent blog post I said, "I hate (most) literary fiction." But that "most" is in there, and it is very important.
You see, just like commercial fiction, literary fiction has more than its fair share of hacks. There is good literary fiction, and like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead--when it's good, it's very, very good...but when it's bad, it's horrid.
Most literary fiction bores me to tears. It's dry. The convoluted wording makes reading the book tedious. And I simply can't relate to the characters. A friend recently recommended the book "Prep" because it's a YA literary novel that she adored. It's gotten some rather high praise from the big reviewers. I, however, could not get past the first two chapters. I couldn't relate to the MC, at all.
But I have read literary novels that made me absolutely swoon. There is a sweet spot among literary novels that happens to fall within my circle of interest. "Hold Still" by Nina LaCour and "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher are two teen literary novels that blew my mind. Admittedly, they are written in more of a commercial style, but they touched on real-life tragedy in a way that was beautiful and soul-changing.
I just mentioned "commercial style." I said that because so many people think it is the style that makes a book literary--specifically a classic style. As though the book must read like one of the novels you were forced to trudge through in high school. Sometimes literary fiction is written that way, and many literary fans say it's about wording, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between literary and mainstream. To me, it has to do with the subject matter. Literary novels focus on character over plot, first and foremost. Also, they are more "real life" than mainstream.
Hm, I say "real life" but I need to quantify that. You see, literary writing is popping up in genre novels. Literary sci-fi, literary fantasy. Style is part of it, but what really makes the difference is the character focus. It's real-life, completely recognizable as what we go through here, now, but in completely fantastical settings.
As you can see by the direction this post is taking, there is muddy water. There is a place where literary and commercial merge, and it's hard to separate them.
Some writers on either extreme, though, ignore that mud pond, staring over it at each other with arms crossed, and noses held high. Both sides feel slighted by the other. The literary fans because they know they are seen as obscure and niche and are unwanted by the norm. The commercial fans because the literary snobs maintain that commercial fiction is so much pig slop.
In all honesty, I just try to stay out of the cross-fire. I see literary fiction the way I see opera. It's something that takes talent in order to be truly good, but it's simply not for me. You're welcome to listen to whatever you want, and read whatever you want--I won't make fun of your too-tight literary bun if you don't scoff at me when I bust out my Stephen King and crank up The Ramones.