I don’t believe in it. Seriously, I don’t. In my opinion literary fiction is little more than an artificial construct designed to separate the writing of university English professors – publish or perish authors who are looking for critical acclaim and job security – from the rest of us who are forever trying to boost our sales and royalties.
But, really, where’s the difference? I don’t write so-called literary fiction, but I certainly enjoy critical acclaim from my readers and reviewers. I would love to win an important literary award. By important, I mean an award that is not based on the number of Likes or votes I can extract from my Facebook friends, readers, and other followers.
Literary fiction is described as work that holds literary merit. We’re talking about serious, introspective, cutting-edge fiction with themes and characters that are often dark and brooding. The pace is slower and the narrative is driven more by the actions and decisions of the characters than by external events. The writing is elegant and layered with a soaring, lyrical quality.
So what? I see this as a difference in style and, perhaps, talent, rather than a separate category of fiction. Well written genre and popular fiction contain these elements. I write family drama/suspense novels. I don’t expect to win a Pulitzer, but I certainly believe my work has literary merit and deserves a place on anyone’s bookshelf. Stephen King is a prolific writer, and yet his work has received criticism for its lack of literary merit. Really? How about Poe or Lovecraft?
Okay, I’m tired of talking about this. The university professors can continue to write what they write and I’ll do the same. I doubt that I’ll read their work and they probably won’t read mine. Maybe it’s better that way.