|But I always get shot down for being elitist and a snob and so on. |
I think some people hereabouts think I'm being elitist just for asking the question, so I feel your pain!
I'm just interested. Because literary fiction is what I rate as a reader I'd like to be able to write it. All I can do is to keep learning and keep trying to reach that goal.
So going by Emma's definition, Will Self is literary.
Still can't accept that Rushdie is, though. However, I would put J. Austen in Classical Chick-lit.
Illustrated Man still gives me nightmares :(
Thanks Emma for that insightful definition. It does make it somewhat clearer, and I agree with you about the quality of literary fiction being a deciding factor.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was written in a literary fashion, but for me, the form didn't really work. I felt the storyline would have worked that much better as an action/genre novel. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Kostova took one of fiction's best loved characters (Count Dracula) and rendered him fairly prosaic.
I think there is a great danger in literary fiction of pretensiousness. I mean, isn't it just fiction that pretends to be more valid than other forms of fiction?
Deb, fundamentally, the only thing you'll write well enough to sell is whatever you really, really want to write. Generally, I think what you most love reading is a pretty good guide to what you should really be writing. Sod the labels.
And if it's any comfort I discovered that one of the reasons it took me so long to get published is that in book trade terms I write literary-commercial crossover, and it's a bugger to sell any kind of cross-genre, but when you finally do, you can sell twice as much!
|I think there is a great danger in literary fiction of pretensiousness. |
Very true - when the obscurity or originality is wilful, rather than the natural, unavoidable product of what the writer's trying to do.
|I mean, isn't it just fiction that pretends to be more valid than other forms of fiction? |
Some is, lots isn't. I don't write 'literary'(ish) because it's more valid, I write it because that's what I write/think/read. I'm not pretending anything, and I really don't think most 'literary' authors are. We do what we do. Same as Barbara Cartland.
And if it is seen as more 'valid' that's society's perception and society's fault. I actually think it's arguably more valuable in that its in literary fiction that the innovation comes that brings new life to writing as a whole. But as a human activity, it's all just storytelling.
|the only thing you'll write well enough to sell is whatever you really, really want to write|
Amen to that.
Yes, I didn't feel that TMOL was 'literary' as such. It struck me as a kind of soul-searching romantic epic, but I can see where the cross-genre tag came from. I also got saddled with that before I'd de-humourised my dark fantasy novel, and also learnt that agents don't really like books they can't easily pin down.
As an agent directly asked me pre-edit 'where do you see this novel sitting on a bookstore shelf?'
It really is that market specific, isn't it?
Interestingly, TMOL's pb cover delicately shifts it towards a more commercial market than the 'decidedly literary' (my editor's phrase) hb cover. Yes - incredibly market specific.
I love them both, and the US cover too, but there's more blood shed over covers than anything else in the author-publisher relationship. I'd love to know whether it's more common for authors to say 'it's horribly commercial and vulgar' or 'it's too literary, my readers won't like it'...
Hmm. My own battle has been well documented. My approach was more like 'if you're going to cover my blood-on-the-tracks novel with that cackhanded shite, then you can go swing'.
I'm happy with the result now, but yes, there was this horrible feeling in my gut of how they were going to present the novel to the world, and I realised how much out of my control it was.
Is your US cover different then, Emma? Any chance of a peek?
|So going by Emma's definition, Will Self is literary.|
Yes, I think he is literary, in that he tries (so very
hard) to be unique, original, groundbreaking etc.
But (IMHO) he also comes under JB's category of pretentious rubbish...
|if it is seen as more 'valid' that's society's perception and society's fault. I actually think it's arguably more valuable in that its in literary fiction that the innovation comes that brings new life to writing as a whole. But as a human activity, it's all just storytelling...|
I couldnt agree more... all storytelling.
There was another comment about themes somewhere... saying that 'literary' fiction seeks to explore more profound themes, then examples were quoted such as 'a single mother juggling a job and children' (or words to that effect).
With respect, is that a theme at all? It's a subject. Is 'subject' the same as theme? I don't think so.
Isn't what singles out a 'literary' writer one who has an original slant on the ordinary, both thematically and in its delivery?
|But (IMHO) he also comes under JB's category of pretentious rubbish...|
Oh good, Griff, (uho Peanuts flash back) I'm glad we're on the same wavelength. <Added>
I'm all for snob value in literature. It would be nice to have a publisher be honest for a change and include 'Oh, you wouldn't like this, it's far too pretensious' on the blurb. ;)
I'd say themes were aspects of a novel that are more abstract than a particular type of situation.
To my mind, 'Single mother juggling job and children' isn't a theme, but it could be a building block in a novel one of whose themes was 'people who find themselves tied accidentally into situations'. I'd then develop a husband who marries someone and finds himself marooned in Ulan Batur when she's posted as Ambassador, or the wife of the self-employed chef, who always ends up doing the accounts because someone has to.
JB, you can see my US cover on their Amazon:
"'Oh, you wouldn't like this, it's far too pretensious' on the blurb. ;)"
Some covers do that pretty effectively, I think - Londonstani, for instance. I've heard of authors who consider themselves literary throwing a tantrum because the publisher but gold embossed lettering on the cover, which is considered in some quarters the ne plus ultra
of vulgar commercialism.
Peter Ackroyd comes pretty close to that... in the introduction to English Music
|'The scholarly reader will soon realize that I have appropriated passages from Thomas Browne, Thomas Malory....and many other English writers; the alert reader will understand why I have done so.'|
That is about as close as an author gets to saying "Thickies can fuck off"... it made me so angry when I first saw it I refused to read Ackroyd for years! Eventually I relented, and I'm glad I did.<Added>
Sorry, that was cross-posted with the point about publishers writing blurbs aimed at snobs.<Added>
And of course, Emma, using phrases like ne plus ultra
on a book jacket would do a pretty good job of fending off the proles too! (Then again I'd probably buy
a book that had Latin phrases plastered all over it, Boris Johnson style...)
The 'Jane Austen is chick lit' argument ALWAYS comes up on threads like this.
Tonight, I am going to home, and I will devise the definitive argument as to why Jane Austen is not chick lit.
This 182 message thread spans 13 pages: < < 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 > >
Jane Austen isn't chick lit because the literary/not literary argument
a) is independent of genre or subject - and genre or subject can be literary, or not literary
c) doesn't apply before Henry James, when all fiction was popular by definition, and 'literature' was poetry and belles lettres [seems to be my day for foreign phrases - I think that's the fourth]
Griff, glad you relented on Ackroyd. That's not very appealing as forewords go, it's true. But most of the time I don't think he's like that - he does what he does because that's how it needs to be.
Going back to Jane Austen, the conclusion of the argument was that there isn't an argument - the correspondences between JA and chick lit are nothing to do with so-called literariness or otherwise. I think what I'm saying is that there's no case.
Anyway, who cares? Write what you write. Read what you read. But you can't have a proper discussion of the subject if you don't distinguish between disliking something for its subject, and for how its handled, and for how the book's written. Most of the points on this thread don't do that, which is when the JA/Chick Lit thing comes up.