Plotless novels.

Yes, we've all heard that one: literary is just writerly masturbation with plotless stories, a bunch of words about characters pondering their existential significance, with nothing resolved at the end.

We'd like to rebut that. We'd like to defend that. We'd like to prove them wrong.

Then you come across a literary fiction, a bestseller and award-winning masterpiece, that does EXACTLY that. What would you say?

I recently read such a novel. Best seller. Award-winning. The opening actually was very charming; I enjoyed it. Then came the rest of the book: plotless, meandering, redundant, repetitive, and a great example of how not to use the thesaurus. I kept hoping for some kind of plot... didn't happen.

Worst of all, I don't like any of the characters. They're dull, boring, and self-righteous, self-indulgent, self-absorbed. I don't care about their conflicts. I don't care about them. Period. I have no emotional investment with them, and no emotional payback. I keep hoping at least, if there's no plot, I can relate to these characters, or marvel at the word play. Instead, I felt like I'd just been hit over the head with a dictionary.

I finished the book desperately hoping for a plot and a nice conclusion. Instead, the story meant absolutely nothing. It was totally a waste of time. And I ended up very angry, for investing so much of my time on this. I kept convincing myself it must be a taste thing. The book must be really brilliant if it won great literary awards and millions of people bought and read it. Then I read the reviews online and it confirmed that I wasn't the only one. Most of the praise came in the form of "you have to read it for the language, and the subtlety..." To which I'd reply: "Bullshit, I read for story. I read for amazing characters. I got neither. And to be honest, the language isn't all that great either, except that I've learned a few big words."


I write literary novels, too, and that's not something I aspire to. Am I too bitter? Am I missing something? Often when I read literary magazines I puzzle over why certain stories get published, because I see nothing spectacular about the writing or the story. It's as if I just heard someone on the street ramble for 10 minutes. If that's what literary novel is about, then I think I'm writing in the wrong genre.

Am I the only one?

p.s. I'm not trying to bash literary fiction. Like I said, I write it, too. I'm just a bit baffled and confused right now.