Stop. The Insanity. Together.

Well, I’m back which means something must have got me thinking. (Way to make it sound like that’s a rare occurrence, B.) It’s not really something new, which you’ll see in a moment, but it will never stop being of interest to me and that’s all the reason I need to bring it up again. ::kisses::

So, 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 answer you with “blah blah Obama blah blah all Black men are now treated fairly”. Right. So let’s jump back to reality, shall we.

I read many of the comments which, as any peruser of the internal webs can tell you, is a risky business. In this case, it was pleasant enough, which isn’t too surprising. It was a group of people who write or love to read. Ta-da, not a lot of stupid made it to the end of the article. And yet, there are several things stated that are just not true. (Oh, I guess we’re done talking about the article – which I enjoyed – and will be focusing on the comments?)

(1) The statement that commercial fiction doesn’t badmouth literary fiction = blatantly untrue. Sorry. I’m deeply entrenched in the online writing community and just like there’s no pure faction in any other dichotomy, there’s no sage martyr here, yo. Only it’s supposed to be “understood” that literary fiction thinks she’s better than you so when we slather that stereotype on, no one’s supposed to be offended. Because it’s true, don’t cha know. Which…right, is badmouthing. The “you hated us first” argument doesn’t change anything.

(2) Literary fiction “makes you think”. Nope, not always. Sometimes it’s purposely inaccessible, self-gratifying and cryptic beyond necessity and purpose.

"Shouldn't have to. Shouldn't have to."

I will go so far as to say that writing speculative literary fiction and writing for the mainstream market made me keenly aware of when I was losing people and – more importantly – failing at my endeavor. I’m not talking about giving up on my love of language and pentameter and falling into a commercial cut-out, I’m talking about realizing that sometimes I’d get lost myself. [He fool he-self!] As in, WHATDIDIMEANWHENIWROTETHIS? Too in-my-own-head. Do I pretend that I now write “for everyone” or even for most people? Nope. But I’ve found that there was room for improvement in pacing and that there’s a reason for white space, for one thing.

(3) Literary doesn’t have a larger audience because it doesn’t have action/plot. Well, firstly, I find that bias on its face. If we’re defining plot by genre standards, then it’d be true but who said that was the *only* standard? Sula has a plot, my pet. And there aren’t explosions but there’s a fire. ::wink!::

Additionally, high concept and plot does not equate to a satisfying read. The most frustration I’ve experienced as a reader is being intrigued by the plethora of awesome concepts only to find that the writing, heart and execution left far too much to be desired. Particularly when it was hailed as “page-turner” or the like. Blech.

And full disclosure, yes, I treated my wounds in the literary section. I am not exaggerating when I say I can open a random book and be immediately pleased. That’s how I know where I belong, I guess. I can’t do that with genre fiction; I’m very, very selective elsewhere, despite being able to name titles elsewhere that I ADORE.

HUNGER GAMES. O_O ENDER’S GAME. (I’ll stop there so it seems like I just like titles with the word “game”.)

Example: I just started reading an excerpt for a forthcoming novel called Inukshuk? Yep. I wanna read it. Immediate images in my head and no sound of a motor running, no regard for time or previous activities. Or, last time I was in the bookstore, I came across a book by Lawrence Hill? Gah. Instantly added the book to my TBR pile AND read the first page of every other available title? Yep. All of ’em. I want everything he’s written.

Ok. This is turning into my love of literary fiction. Sorry.

(4) I can’t remember the rest of the comments despite the fact that I could a moment ago. But one thing that really stands out to me is this whole “let’s just stop calling it literary because it’s intimidating and it implies that nothing else is literature”. This is funny to me, for several reasons. First of all, it has a definitive distinction and culturally understood definition so why should we change the name just because it makes you self-conscious? O_o I mean, I guess we’ll try that just as soon as I’m able to convince you all to capitalize Black and stop calling me African-American. Or you know, stop calling America “America” because it isn’t fair to Canadians or Mexicans – you know, despite the fact that America is literally a part of the name of our country so calm yourselves. OH! Or can we stop referring to soy drink as “milk” since it didn’t come from a teet?

What I’m saying is, really? That’s where you wanna distribute your energies? Why not – in the same way literary writers “should” write “better stories” – change what you’re doing to please readers of literary fiction? OR write what you write, accept that no one writes for everyone and stop bullying the one who’s no longer allowed to call you on it.

I’m not apologizing for my bias because that would just be silly. But come ‘ere. Give us a cuddle.


8 thoughts on “Stop. The Insanity. Together.

  1. I love this! Thanks for reading the piece (and the comments).

    I was very surprised by the strong reactions from folks & likewise enjoyed some of the strange pot-calling-kettle-black stuff & odd bias about what literary fiction is. The only thing I can say that it is conclusively is that it’s unpredictable.

    -April Line


    • Hi April! How wonderful is the internet? Read something, write a response and hours later the author of the original article has read your response. 🙂 Not too shabby.

      Thanks for the original article! I first started by sharing it on FB and then wondered how many people who don’t already read literary fiction would honestly click the link and read your piece… so here we are. 🙂


      • Lovely. I do love the interwebs.

        I’m having a great blog morning. One of my internet heroes commented on my blog this morning (Penelope Trunk), and then your fabulous post.

        I think this is what an internet hug feels like. 🙂

        I’m learning that Twitter is a better spot for the Thinky Links.



        • Absolutely on linking on Twitter. My entire feed are literary folk.

          And yay for being a part of the cyber-cuddle! 😀 And now – because the internet is awesome – I’m off to look up your hero.


  2. I’m on both sides of the fence, ( yes I can feel the spinters) because I read both. I love my literary filling, but I also get lost in a good speculative romp. I’m not immune to picking up something because it’s of the moment, but I also like the hard to find gems. It’s unfair that such talent is underpaid and that pulp wins every time, and I wish I could change that…..but It’s what we’ve become. We are of the moment.
    Fantastic post 🙂


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