Why Isn’t Literary Fiction Getting More Attention?

© The fantastic Tom Gauld

© Tom Gauld | www.tomgauld.com

Today’s guest post is from April Line, a freelance writer and writing teacher. Read her previous guest post for this site, Can Children Develop Adequately Without Books?, and visit her online at April Line Writing.


When I was in the home stretch of my liberal arts studies, something kind of shitty happened. I got pregnant. Being 25, a feminist, single, and centimeters from an MFA program in fiction writing at my choice between University of Pittsburgh, University of Cincinnati, or Purdue; abortion was the obvious answer, right?

Wrong.

There’s no point now in wondering whether it was the right choice, but I’ve got a pile of toil, an excellent six-year-old, and perspective to show for it.

What I don’t have is a terminal degree in the art of my choice, and give-or-take five years of reading and writing.

In April 2011, during my kid’s first year of public school, I was so relieved to reclaim a bit of breathing space that I quit my stupid retail sales job and I went freelance.

Copyblogger told me that I should tweet as a freelancer, so I did (they give great advice); and in May somebody tweeted asking, “Is literary fiction is the new poetry?”

The quotation is commonly attributed to Jonathan Franzen, but it’s a sentiment that’s been around for some time. I recall my mentor and undergraduate thesis advisor telling me that literary writers write for other literary writers.

Seeing it on Twitter gave it startling gravitas, plus my own burgeoning adulthood makes me more willing to see a doughnut’s hole, and it’s been niggling at my literature-loving soul.

And it seems that the fatalistic, academic impulse is going to be to let it just happen: to watch literary fiction’s audience become increasingly smaller, watch the people who write it become increasingly disenfranchised, watch their numbers diminish, even as the growing number MFA programs churn out writers and literature lovers, and deprive us—who would rather read Amy Hempel or John McNally or Joan Didion than Stephanie Meyer or Norah Roberts or John Grisham—of this delicious, delicious, reading.

That makes me sad.

One of the last bits of literary fiction I read before taking my too-long hiatus was Ron Currie Jr.’s God is Dead. That, friends, is a brilliant book. It’s loosely connected short stories set in post-apocalypse America. One of the first bits of literary fiction I read when I came back to reading for love, pleasure, and the experience was Ron Currie Jr.’s Everything Matters! which is also a brilliant book, and my new favorite. It replaced The Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke.

My point is that these books are lovely and entertaining. In Everything Matters!, there is cocaine and alcohol addiction, violence, celebrity, conspiracy, and science fiction. In The Arsonist’s Guide there’s multi generational marital unrest, alcoholism, violence, the mafia, fire. In both of these, there are very funny jokes.

And it seems to me that we’re reading more than ever as a culture. We read on the Internet, so many folks are blogging, e-readers and smart phones make books and language so accessible and ever present. I have a copy of The Pickwick Papers on my Android phone.

It seems sad and irresponsible to me that we should just let literary fiction fizzle into the academic ether.

This article at McSweeney’s references NEA studies that indicate that 1982–2003 accounted for the greatest decrease of young people reading literature. But young people are reading more as of 2009 than they did in the 30 years prior. So this new increase in young readers, combined with the decreased cost of publishing e-books, and marketing with social media, seems like an opportunity for literary fiction.

Genre authors are more likely to score five-figure advances (or more) and are almost certain to see royalties. Literary authors clamor after $5,000 advances if they don’t just give up and self pub—and if they see royalties, they’re spare.

Literary authors do book tours, signings, appear at academic conferences, speak on concerns of craft and the academic writing world. They have agents, but their agents don’t interface with their publishers to make sure the books are on end caps in Target or the equivalent.

Why the hell not?

Literary fiction gets marketed differently because there’s a different audience, right? And I can see that argument, sort of. Like if people who appreciate literature didn’t also like to buy inexpensive toilet paper. Or if enjoying 30 Rock and Planet Earth were mutually exclusive. Or if nobody who listens to Howard Stern ever listens to Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

The morale among literary authors is low. Because even though they know their books are great, the mainstream voice is saying, “But not great enough to be worthy of sales efforts!”  The playing field is leveling as reading becomes more digitized, and I’m not the only one who’s saying it. It’s time for literary authors to reclaim a segment of the market. And I want to help.

I loaded up my holiday gift list this year with titles from authors whose tweets I follow, from authors I loved seven years ago who’ve published new books, with writers the mainstream public doesn’t talk about.

Peter Damian Bellis lives 20 minutes away from me, and has written a book called The Conjure Man (available for free here) that was in the running for a nomination for the National Book Award. There are fewer than 5,000 copies out there. It’s not even in too many libraries. It’s a wonderful book that will totally enthrall you, and Bellis is touring blues festivals to publicize it.

Do the people in charge of decisions about marketing books have such a low estimation of the reading public that they won’t even give them the opportunity not to choose literary fiction?

I recognize that we’re probably a hundred long, laborious steps away from end caps in Target, or at least equal market saturation, but we must start walking.

Here’s a step: I’m starting a nonprofit. Billtown Blue Lit. We’ve got a blog. We’ve got a StartSomeGood Campaign, we’re doing a podcast called “Writers Talk.”  We want people to have access to good stuff to read, so we’re going to do good stuff in service of good books.

Maybe you’d like to join us.

Posted in Guest Post, Publishing Industry, Reading.

April Line's fiction appeared in Sou'Wester in 2005. She currently does copy writing, editing, and freelances for a number of regional publications. She is working on a collection of essays and fiction, and on her nonprofit project, Billtown Blue Lit. She lives in Williamsport, PA.

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Matthew Turner

Good luck with the new site April, it’s a shame Literary works are so niche these days, because the writing is usually so beautiful and poetic. Although the Internet and Social Media is so good for authors it’s the main catalyst of the fall of Literary works in my opinion. These books are often thinkers and people are so used to going online these days and just finding the info they need there and then. We get mad if we have to wait an extra second for the page to load, and if the article doesn’t grab us in the first paragraph we press x and move to the next… Read more »

Matthew Turner

Good luck with the new site April, it’s a shame Literary works are so niche these days, because the writing is usually so beautiful and poetic. Although the Internet and Social Media is so good for authors it’s the main catalyst of the fall of Literary works in my opinion. These books are often thinkers and people are so used to going online these days and just finding the info they need there and then. We get mad if we have to wait an extra second for the page to load, and if the article doesn’t grab us in the first paragraph we press x and move to the next… Read more »

NE French
NE French

Sorry but I don’t agree. Literary fiction is like SF it’s a genre ( I’m quoting here but unfortunately don’t have the reference). Too often literary fiction is beautifully written but lacks a real story. The best literary fiction has both and transcends genre. But this is not the norm.

Caleb J. Ross
Caleb J. Ross

@NE French – I don’t see literary fiction as a stand alone genre, at least not in the way that SF is a genre. There are plenty of genre books that overlay literary sensibilities (‘overlay’ is a better descriptor of literary than ‘genre,’ I think). I think the genre that would describe the type of “lacks real story” fiction that you describe would be Domestic Fiction, which would involve family life, and far too often, aimless internalizing.

Ross Lampert
Ross Lampert

OF COURSE “literary” fiction is a genre! “Genre” simply means “kind,” and “literary” is a kind of fiction. This isn’t a bad thing–except that too many literary fiction types don’t want to be sullied by being associated with those other kinds of fiction, kinds which they consider beneath them, unworthy. You can almost hear them spit after they say “genre fiction,” as if they’re trying to get the bad taste out of their mouths. Am I making this up? Alas, no. In his book on writing, “The Lie That Tells a Truth,” literary fiction writer John Dufresne slimed genre fiction… Read more »

kathryn magendie
kathryn magendie

My novels seem to be in some limbo-ish place between litearary and “women’s fiction” and even sometimes called “YA-ishy” and “southern fiction” and “appalachian fiction” — it boggles the mind! But, one thing is for sure, I was told not to call my work “literary fiction” or it would turn to dust and fly away to the four unknown corners of the universe. Besides, I am told, my stuff is “just over to the other side” enough not to be considered “Literary books that people are put off by . . .” I suppose that’s a good place to be, right? Right?… Read more »

Karen Spears Zacharias

Children will eat sugar all day long, too, if that’s all they are offered. Parents have to offer real nutrient if they want to see their children grow up healthy. Thankfully there are a few publishers who understand that. And good on you for offering readers something more than another celebrity tell-all.  

David Halliday

Many years ago (decades) I was told by a publisher that he loved to publish my work but that there was no market for it. Literary fiction has become a vanity press for publishers. I was advised to write in a genre. Since then I have heard the same refrain from writers about serious fiction. I think they are wrong. They are living in a fantasy world. Serious fiction was important at one time. Mostly the late 19th and early 20th century. It affected our culture. Since then the mantle of ideas and culture has moved to other mediums. The… Read more »

Karin Gillespie
Karin Gillespie

Actually when it comes to newspaper reviews, literary novels get the most attention. I know this because I read the round up of reviews in Publishers Marketplace every week. It’s very rare to find a a genre review. Also I agree with NE French, storytelling skills sorely lacks in so many literary novels. Yes, they are often brilliant, funny and well-written, but as a whole they often fall apart. Upmarket fiction is what everyone seems to be looking for (Think Kite Runner) which is a hybrid of commercial and literary.  I”l quote Seth Godin: “If your target  audience isn’t listening,… Read more »

Susan McNerney

Totally agree on the short story thing. A major shortcoming of my MFA program as well. Short stories don’t teach you how to deal with a plot, or character development, for that matter, over the course of 80,000 words. A lot of folks who might have found a natural plotting on their own, or by reading novels, might be confused by classes that emphasize short stories.  They’re a very different animal (and just as hard to do well).

florence fois
florence fois

April, thanks so much for this thoughtful post. This discussion speaks to the heart of our reading culture, and the answers are not in MFA programs, not in reading programs for YA. My teenage twin grandchildren are in advanced reading because of my son, his reading because of his mother. My reading because I read everything. There is too much said about the “poor” reader, or to be blunt, that readers are not at literate as they once were. It has nothing to with the basic education of the reader, only the narrow perspective of marketing departments in publishing. It… Read more »

Henry Baum

I think you can blame the readers as much as the marketers. If you look at this list of popular self-published fiction, it’s mostly non-literary commercial fiction. Maybe this is a result of all he marketing from the traditional publishing industry, or maybe this is what readers want. As readers are more and more the gatekeepers instead of editors, they’re proving to have exactly the same taste.

florence fois
florence fois

 I am also spelling challenged … “marketers” I believe is the word … sorry 🙂

Cathy Day
Cathy Day

Hi April! Let me throw a couple thoughts into this discussion.In the UK, the NAWE (National Associate of Writers in Education) includes in its *Creative Writing Benchmark Statement* that “a Creative Writing course [should] not uncritically privilege one or other genre or style of writing (e.g. ‘literary fiction’)”  However, in the US, the AWP’s (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) *Director’s Handbook* insists that “students are required to produce a publishable literary work” I realize that you’re mostly talking about marketing here, but I do think that the privileging of “literary” over “genre” (or to widen the scope a little, lets… Read more »

Cathy Day
Cathy Day

Hi April! Let me throw a couple thoughts into this discussion.In the UK, the NAWE (National Associate of Writers in Education) includes in its *Creative Writing Benchmark Statement* that “a Creative Writing course [should] not uncritically privilege one or other genre or style of writing (e.g. ‘literary fiction’)”  However, in the US, the AWP’s (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) *Director’s Handbook* insists that “students are required to produce a publishable literary work” I realize that you’re mostly talking about marketing here, but I do think that the privileging of “literary” over “genre” (or to widen the scope a little, lets… Read more »

Cathy Day
Cathy Day

Hi April! Let me throw a couple thoughts into this discussion.In the UK, the NAWE (National Associate of Writers in Education) includes in its *Creative Writing Benchmark Statement* that “a Creative Writing course [should] not uncritically privilege one or other genre or style of writing (e.g. ‘literary fiction’)”  However, in the US, the AWP’s (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) *Director’s Handbook* insists that “students are required to produce a publishable literary work” I realize that you’re mostly talking about marketing here, but I do think that the privileging of “literary” over “genre” (or to widen the scope a little, lets… Read more »

Jessica Bell

Oh my, what a fantastic idea! ” 

“But not great enough to be worthy of sales efforts!” I say this to myself ALL the time.

Will definitely check out the sites. It really is about time people take notice of the words as well as the story, don’t you think?

Susan McNerney

I don’t think the issue is with literary fiction. It’s with a subgenre I’d call “realism” which has dominated literary circles for the last twenty years or so. There will always be a place for highly realistic, closely written stories which examine individual characters as if under a microscope, but the assumption that this is the only way to tell a “literary” story is waning. I see fantasy, in particular, as a genre where the quality of prose and the depth of thematic elements is turning otherwise”literary” heads.

Brooks

The big literary releases like The Art of Fielding, The Tiger’s Wife or even 1Q84 are hopefully a gateway drug to more substantive literature.  But what I’ve really started to notice is that readers aren’t aware of the publisher in the same way that they’re aware of the writer.  They read Stephen King but they have no idea who publishes his books.  They’ve maybe heard of Téa Obreht but they don’t know or care that Random House is the publisher.   In my experience, once I started paying attention to the publisher, I started to notice the indie publishers like… Read more »

Brooks

The big literary releases like The Art of Fielding, The Tiger’s Wife or even 1Q84 are hopefully a gateway drug to more substantive literature.  But what I’ve really started to notice is that readers aren’t aware of the publisher in the same way that they’re aware of the writer.  They read Stephen King but they have no idea who publishes his books.  They’ve maybe heard of Téa Obreht but they don’t know or care that Random House is the publisher.   In my experience, once I started paying attention to the publisher, I started to notice the indie publishers like… Read more »

Brooks

The big literary releases like The Art of Fielding, The Tiger’s Wife or even 1Q84 are hopefully a gateway drug to more substantive literature.  But what I’ve really started to notice is that readers aren’t aware of the publisher in the same way that they’re aware of the writer.  They read Stephen King but they have no idea who publishes his books.  They’ve maybe heard of Téa Obreht but they don’t know or care that Random House is the publisher.   In my experience, once I started paying attention to the publisher, I started to notice the indie publishers like… Read more »

Caroline Ailanthus
Caroline Ailanthus

Sounds like a great idea. Sounds like maybe one of my blogs, http://readthisbooksayscaroline.blogspot.com/ can get involved in some way; I’m reviewing books “everybody should read,” and my list has, so far, included everything from popular science, to memoir, to pop-music lyrics (not quite a book, but it’s my blog). Since I don’t recognize the artificial division between “literature” and everything else, maybe I can help un-ghettoize delicious writing?

April Line
April Line

Oh yeah!  Let’s talk.  I’ll find your email on your blog!

Sean Cummings

And yet literary fiction which get’s the lion’s share of press from the mainstream media whereas genre fiction doesn’t. Literary fiction is respectable, I suppose. Genre fiction is it’s trailer park inbred cousin named Cletus. (If you listen to radio shows like Between the Covers or Writers and Company.

Odd, that.

April Line
April Line

Holy Birds!  What a lively and engaging discussion!  Thanks everybody for weighing in!   Please let me clear up just one thing–and this was a worry of mine as I wrote the post–it is not my contention that literary fiction is the only thing people should read or that genre fiction is necessarily unworthy. My point is, why the difference in marketing efforts?  Why do literary books get reviewed in newspapers, but genre books get reviewed on blogs?   Terry Pratchett writes really fun stuff, and so does, as Cathy Day pointed out, Julianna Baggott as Bridget Asher, N.E. Bode,… Read more »

Robotech_Master
Robotech_Master

Well, I’ll tell you this: I read to get away from the real world. I want my stories to be set in places that are recognizably not the real world. I don’t want to read stuff set in the real world. Even mysteries are set in a world where, unlike the real world, everything makes sense by the end.

So I read genre.

Unpublished Guy

I, for one, thoroughly enjoy pretentious literary wanking. Bit obsessed, really …

Sue jackson
Sue jackson

I think commercial writers are every bit as obsessive about craft as literary writers. Perhaps they are dealing more with tension in scenes, pacing, etc instead of coming up with an apt metaphor but there is much attention to craft  Having had my foot in both worlds, I’m puzzled why literary writers want to strike out at commercial writers. That’s counterproductive and you rarely see commercial writers strike out at literary writers. No need for this divisiveness. We are all writers who work very hard at our art. 

Traci Loudin

I find it frustrating that many literary writers and readers literally think the other genres aren’t as literate. Good and bad writing get published in every genre. People talk like literary fiction is the vegetables and all the other genres are the sweet-tooth foods, well, do you want to read some great language in the fantasy genre? Check out Patrick Rothfuss.  The concept that only literary fiction feeds the brain or exemplifies good writing it completely absurd.  The reason I don’t read literary fiction is because it was force-fed to me in college, and I don’t like the stories I… Read more »

Anjali Mitter Duva

Wonderful discussion! I have a novel on submission right now, and I’m getting many rejections, with the unanimous conclusion that, despite strong writing, a unique concept, an exotic setting and compelling characters which the editors really like, the manuscript is “too literary.” But you know, I find this encouraging. I mean, as far as rejections go. Editors are liking what they are reading, but feel they cannot make enough money off of it. I could take issue with the “too literary” label, and point out that the story is character-driven, and has plenty of plot, as well as family secrets,… Read more »

Anjali Mitter Duva

Wonderful discussion! I have a novel on submission right now, and I’m getting many rejections, with the unanimous conclusion that, despite strong writing, a unique concept, an exotic setting and compelling characters which the editors really like, the manuscript is “too literary.” But you know, I find this encouraging. I mean, as far as rejections go. Editors are liking what they are reading, but feel they cannot make enough money off of it. I could take issue with the “too literary” label, and point out that the story is character-driven, and has plenty of plot, as well as family secrets,… Read more »

Anjali Mitter Duva

Wonderful discussion! I have a novel on submission right now, and I’m getting many rejections, with the unanimous conclusion that, despite strong writing, a unique concept, an exotic setting and compelling characters which the editors really like, the manuscript is “too literary.” But you know, I find this encouraging. I mean, as far as rejections go. Editors are liking what they are reading, but feel they cannot make enough money off of it. I could take issue with the “too literary” label, and point out that the story is character-driven, and has plenty of plot, as well as family secrets,… Read more »

Kate Happenence

As someone who doesn’t have an English Literature, creative writing or other degree and whose reading comes from just picking up books that take my fancy here’s my opinion: The word literary is scary. You say literary and I feel intimidated, like it’s an entire genre written for somebody else, somebody from a private school education, ironed shirts and polished shoes. If I read this ‘literary’ fiction aloud I’d feel the sudden need to talk in a posh, pretencious voice and follow it all by a giggle. I couldn’t however define this mysterious alien ‘literary’ world. As far as I… Read more »

Kate Happenence

As someone who doesn’t have an English Literature, creative writing or other degree and whose reading comes from just picking up books that take my fancy here’s my opinion: The word literary is scary. You say literary and I feel intimidated, like it’s an entire genre written for somebody else, somebody from a private school education, ironed shirts and polished shoes. If I read this ‘literary’ fiction aloud I’d feel the sudden need to talk in a posh, pretencious voice and follow it all by a giggle. I couldn’t however define this mysterious alien ‘literary’ world. As far as I… Read more »

Kate Happenence

As someone who doesn’t have an English Literature, creative writing or other degree and whose reading comes from just picking up books that take my fancy here’s my opinion: The word literary is scary. You say literary and I feel intimidated, like it’s an entire genre written for somebody else, somebody from a private school education, ironed shirts and polished shoes. If I read this ‘literary’ fiction aloud I’d feel the sudden need to talk in a posh, pretencious voice and follow it all by a giggle. I couldn’t however define this mysterious alien ‘literary’ world. As far as I… Read more »

Kate Happenence

As someone who doesn’t have an English Literature, creative writing or other degree and whose reading comes from just picking up books that take my fancy here’s my opinion: The word literary is scary. You say literary and I feel intimidated, like it’s an entire genre written for somebody else, somebody from a private school education, ironed shirts and polished shoes. If I read this ‘literary’ fiction aloud I’d feel the sudden need to talk in a posh, pretencious voice and follow it all by a giggle. I couldn’t however define this mysterious alien ‘literary’ world. As far as I… Read more »

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[…] Does literary fiction deserve more attention? […]

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Self-Publishing Review | Blog | Taking Issue with Konrath

[…] will have a harder time of it.   In a post on Jane Friedman’s blog, the question is asked: Why Isn’t Literary Fiction Getting More Attention? The morale among literary authors is low. Because even though they know their books are great, the […]

Jeffrey Howe

The term “Literary Fiction” is what a marketing type would call a damaged brand.  

Jeffrey Howe

The term “Literary Fiction” is what a marketing type would call a damaged brand.  

Forms
Forms

“Seeing it on Twitter gave it startling gravitas” This is definitely the first time I have ever encountered that phrase. I would like to make a note about Tracy Loudin’s comment about litfic being there (in part) to “make you think”.  Far too many litfic authors lend too much weight to that, and I believe it ruins their efforts. Usually the philosophical point (in the rare cases where it is even nontrivial) being made could be made far more clearly and completely in a 10 page essay.  Or, by Immanuel Kant, in 3 dense paragraphs.  Chances are, someone somewhere has… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan

This whole ‘issue’ arises from 2 key areas – 1. publishers – marketing hacks (they are in business – for dollars – as they have been for 300 years) 2. creative writing schools creating flawed expectations among aspiring writers about ‘the market’ – and the result – a bunch of deluded fools thinking they can make a living from literature. (A living?!) The defintion of ‘literature’ or ‘literary’ is the problem. Up until recently we included perhaps 1-300 seminal texts per century (that is 100 years people) on the list of what we regard in the West as literature. It takes 50 years to get… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
Samuel Ferree
Samuel Ferree

Thank you for the fascinating post and recommendations. But I disagree. I don’t believe making a simple dichotomy between “literary” and “genre” fiction is a useful means to the end everyone who read this post is trying to achieve: good writers and good writing deserve good audiences.

I see little difference between Joan Didion and China Mieville, two authors I love, but they tend to be shelved in different sections in libraries and book stories. Promoting the authors and aesthetics you adore does not necessitate ascribing less value to others.

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[…] collections of literary short stories (which were one of the most hotly criticized things in the delicious comments to my piece at Jane Friedman’s blog) I read were short storeis that told a story like a novel […]

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[…] past few weeks have been a blur of exciting things for Billtown Blue Lit.  We’ve talked at Jane Friedman’s blog, been interviewed for Public Radio (it will air sometime next week.  Listen at 89.7 WVIA if […]

EllenB

Wow! Great post and comments; all the drama and thought-provoking disagreement that makes for great reading 😉 When I got my MFA back in 1990 I wasn’t at all under the delusion that it would lead me to begin paid enough for my novels to make a living at it. I pursued the MFA for the only reason anyone should: to learn to write better. When my literary novel was published in 1996, I learned things about book publishing I’d never dreamed could exist (I was nearly 40 and had many years of magazine freelancing behind me, so the publishing… Read more »

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[…] I read this article about literary fiction and it not getting the attention it deserves, by and large. And before you say “blah blah Franzen blah blah cover of Times”, let me […]

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[…] Recently a number of critics, publishers and publicists have suggested that literary fiction is simply a genre, like crime or chick lit and should be marketed as such (to ever decreasing readers, according to April Line in her guest post here, Why Isn’t Literary Fiction Getting More Attention. […]

Feather McGregor
Feather McGregor

Perhaps the birds of pretension and exclusivity have come home to roost?

Dr. George

The answer to why literary fiction is not getting “more attention,” which I presume means “its due attention,” is inherent in the question itself.  Such fiction is by definition “literary,” and ours is not a literary age.  Those comments here that focus on marketing are saying the same thing in a different way.  A NY publisher is in a mass market business; to justify advertising and promoting a book, it must back books that appeal to a market segment that is (a) large in number and (b) identifiable for marketing purposes.  Readers of literary fiction are neither.   To begin… Read more »

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[…] She wrote a piece called, Why Isn’t Literary Fiction Getting More Attention? […]

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[…] I’ve been wondering a lot and for some time about this disparity between the popularity of books that are strict genre fiction and books that are literary.  I’ve written a bunch of blog posts about it, including one for Jane Friedman’s blog that has a lot of terrific comments and also impassione… […]

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[…] I read this post about the death of Literary fiction. Lately I have been having a lot of arguments on the subject of literary versus genre fiction. It’s obvious which I favor, but I think that personal preference plays a very large role here. A lot of times in the academic world you will see professors touting the wonders of literary fiction and the beautifully written prose. But that was never what interested me and that wasn’t what got me into writing. […]

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[…]  From April Line […]

Dia
Dia

I think one of the reasons literary fiction is fading is a problem of image. Literary fiction is held up as better than other genres, more intellectual, more serious. People avoid it because it feels snobby and pretentious. There is also this feeling that literary fiction can’t be fun, and even that it isn’t meant to be enjoyed (in a very “shut up and eat your vegetables” kind of way). To most people literary fiction is about realism and unhappiness, and why would someone looking to read for entertainment want to buy a book like that.

Greg
Greg

I stumped across this article after, once again, attempting to read a great literary work,-The Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarty-, and yet again, giving it up at about 140 pages in. So I was curious as to why I just can’t dig literature and started Googling it. I’m one of those rare everyday Joe Americans that absolutely loves to read. ( They say approximately 1% of the human population is sociopaths, and seems like male bookworms are fewer than that.) But I only love genre fiction; sci-fi/fantasy, Westerns, Crime noir, historic fiction, etc… I’ve yet to get through, without being… Read more »

april line

Hi. I love this comment. I have chillaxed a little since I wrote this post, so all I want to say is you don’t have to be able to get into Cormac McCarthy. I can’t get into Henry Miller, and each of my eleven attempts to read Mrs.Dalloway has not ended well. I am currently reading SULA by Toni Morrison and a co-written literary humor book about a kitting group turned rapist assassin squad. I can’t recall the title just now and i’m too lazy to go get it. I have zero success reading genre fiction, but that’s just me.… Read more »