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Phaeal
05-06-2010, 06:54 PM
A friend sent me this link from The Atlantic. Looks pretty intense at first glance and a nice complement to the newly raging fanfic rants. Not to mention the ever-raging lit fic vs. gen fic rants. ;)

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-reader-apos-s-manifesto/2270/

Libbie
05-06-2010, 07:14 PM
The point of the rant seems to be "I don't like literary fiction."

Fair enough. Not everybody does. I don't like vampire novels, and if I had a platform at The Atlantic I'd shriek about it just as loudly as this dude shrieks over literary fiction.

I find "stuttering tulips" much more interesting than safe, predictable prose.

Miss Plum
05-06-2010, 07:21 PM
He likes lit-fic, just not contemporary lit-fic. (Now I'm going to finish it.)

BenPanced
05-06-2010, 07:23 PM
I printed out this article but I'm going to have to read it later. 24 freakin' pages.

kuwisdelu
05-06-2010, 07:29 PM
It seems clear to me this character hasn't read all that much contemporary literary fiction other than what he quoted.

Sigh.

willietheshakes
05-06-2010, 07:45 PM
Oh, fuck - not this B.R. Myers shit again.


I printed out this article but I'm going to have to read it later. 24 freakin' pages.

Be thankful -- he later turned this screed into a book

BenPanced
05-06-2010, 08:28 PM
Holy crapsticks. I just saw the date on the printout's masthead.

gothicangel
05-06-2010, 08:41 PM
I love literary fiction.

But from the sound of the voice of the 'rant' is as every bit as pretentious as the writing he is mouthing of about.

I adore lit fic, but not authors who are that in love with their Thesaurus. :D

Amadan
05-06-2010, 08:52 PM
I'll take "safe, predictable" prose that actually gets to the point and tells a story over beautiful labyrinthine gardens of words that want to drag you into their sesquipedalian embrace and smother you with similes because the author is just So! Damn! Precious!

In other words, I agree with Myers's rant. But Stephen King made the same point more succinctly (http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20034042,00.html). Gods forbid any self-respecting "literary" author be caught trying to engage the reader's interest with a well-told story, no, we must be all literary an' shit and who cares if there's actually a plot in there?

incognitopress
05-06-2010, 08:54 PM
All in all, I actually thought he made some rather good points... and some that didn't make any sense. I certainly wouldn't call his article "shit."
I do tend to write more on the "literary" side, but I also strive to keep the plot fast-moving. I do believe that as a writer in this day and age, you need to perform a balancing act in order to keep up the readers' interest.

I looked forward to finding out which writers Myers WOULD consider praise-worthy. The problem I had was where 99.99% of all the "old" writers Myers approves of are all men, and mostly of that 1930s-1950s generation...I don't know, the article came across as quite biased toward the Hemingway-type of author (sparse prose, not a lot of metaphors), and for that reason, I take his observations (which I enjoyed reading, I must admit) with a grain of salt.

willietheshakes
05-06-2010, 08:59 PM
I certainly wouldn't call his article "shit."


I wasn't referring to the article as shit.

Based on precedent and experience, I was referring to the lock-bound trajectory which most threads about this article -- and there have been a few -- tend to take.

brainstorm77
05-06-2010, 09:01 PM
Meh.... Just another opinion.

CaroGirl
05-06-2010, 09:01 PM
:popcorn:

incognitopress
05-06-2010, 09:03 PM
yikes. I'll be sure to keep watch and see how fast this goes that way :P
I still have to browse for the fun threads in the "locked" section. :D

Phaeal
05-06-2010, 09:40 PM
Ah, at nearly a decade old, it is a classic rant indeed. Writers of rants everywhere should take heart, for immortality may be theirs.

:D

Miss Plum
05-06-2010, 10:12 PM
Just finished it. Loved it. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I'd like to know whether the critics and authors he savaged had any response. I'd also like to see some live mano-a-mano on a topic like this, maybe a panel discussion at a college or convention. Literary feud!

Libbie
05-07-2010, 12:02 AM
For people who don't really understand what's going on with contemporary literary fiction, I strongly suggest Annesley's book Blank Fictions. It's an in-depth examination of how contemporary culture has influenced contemporary literary fiction, and how contemporary lit fic reflects modern culture in some really surprising and gratifying ways.

Sadly, the book is out of print, but you might luck out and find a copy at your local library. It's excellent, and helps explain what is going through the minds and subconscious of writers and readers of contemporary lit.

Dr.Gonzo
05-07-2010, 12:11 PM
Somebody likes the sound of their own keyboard.

DancingMaenid
05-07-2010, 12:52 PM
*shrugs* Personally, I don't see much point in debating the merits of any particular genre, lit fiction included. A lot comes down to personal taste, and what works and is considered good can be somewhat dependent on genre, as well.

Debating the merits of particular techniques, styles, or writers is good enough, but I do think context (in this case, the genre and what the readers expect from it) is important.

shaldna
05-07-2010, 03:32 PM
Seems to me he likes the sound of his own voice.

SPMiller
05-07-2010, 03:53 PM
There were plenty of critical responses to his paper. My opinion on the matter is given in older threads. Just caaaaan't wait to see this one coast to a lock.

Honestly, I was hoping to see something new.

shaldna
05-07-2010, 04:07 PM
Honestly, I was hoping to see something new.


phhhtttt!


As if.

:P

djf881
05-07-2010, 05:49 PM
I really agreed with this article, which is so long because the author supports his argument with numerous examples and lots of evidence. And this guy is mostly right.

But the point about the inanity and the incomprehensibility of Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy is one that needs to be made. Every time I read one of McCarthy's rare interviews, I'm just astonished by how full of shit he is. I like Nicholas Sparks much better since he took a swing at that bastard.

I tried to read the new surprise Pulitzer winner "Tinkers," by Paul Harding, and I gave up on getting through it because the book has no story and I just hate it. I read an interview where Harding was bitching about the literary agents who rejected him because they prefer stories with car chases to his "slow, contemplative, meditative, quiet book." And I have to wonder why he thinks it's necessary to string together four adjectives that all mean the same thing.

I view Don DeLillo with less hostility, because his observations were probably fresher in the eighties, when "White Noise" was originally published, and because some of these tired ideas seemed pretty on-point when I was nineteen. But maybe impressing nineteen year-olds isn't the gold standard for literature. I'm still impressed by Nabokov and Roth and Bellow.

RemusShepherd
05-07-2010, 07:11 PM
This is a very interesting article. The critic begins with the premise that literary fiction holds the reader at a farther distance than genre writing. Then he offers many examples of just how the literary writers create that distance between their characters and their readers.

As a genre writer, I'm going to refer to this article as a list of examples of what not to do...or to do only when trying to accomplish a special effect.

I don't know whether his criticisms are valid -- it seems likely that he's generalizing from a few bad phrases to the entire literary genre. But as individual object lessons it's a wonderful article.

Don Allen
05-07-2010, 07:24 PM
My silly little take is that when Lit-fic is good, it's amazing. When it's bad, it's amazingly bad.... Really not a so so lit-fic category,,, In My Most Humble And Limited Opinion.

willietheshakes
05-07-2010, 07:28 PM
it seems likely that he's generalizing from a few bad phrases to the entire literary genre

This.

Though I would add "carefully selected" to your "bad phrases".

djf881
05-07-2010, 07:32 PM
.

I don't know whether his criticisms are valid -- it seems likely that he's generalizing from a few bad phrases to the entire literary genre. But as individual object lessons it's a wonderful article.

Literature is not a genre. A love story or a crime story or a ghost story can be literature.

Affected prose and tortured metaphors and strings of nonsensical clauses of do not make something more "literary" than plain, clean language. Many "genre" novels contain interesting ideas, communicate them well, and do so while telling a good stories, while many literary novels fail to do any of these things. The literary designation becomes an excuse for being long-winded, inefficient and boring.

I don't know who is to blame for this problem. It could be MFA programs and the grants and fellowships that allow many writers to be supported by universities rather than readers.

It could be the rise of the mega-bookstores and their determination that "literature" was a section on the store.

It could be, as Myers contends, the book reviewers; his complaints about the quality of literary criticism are, perhaps vindicated by the decline of book review sections in newspapers.

But it's very good when anyone can stand up and complain about novels that fail to contain stories, or novels that are clogged with affected language that interferes with the story.

willietheshakes
05-07-2010, 07:50 PM
Literature is not a genre. A love story or a crime story or a ghost story can be literature.
Literature is not a genre, no. But we're not talking about literature; we're talking about literary fiction. There's a difference.


Affected prose and tortured metaphors and strings of nonsensical clauses of do not make something more "literary" than plain, clean language. Many "genre" novels contain interesting ideas, communicate them well, and do so while telling a good stories, while many literary novels fail to do any of these things. The literary designation becomes an excuse for being long-winded, inefficient and boring.

In your opinion.

I'm not sure about anyone else, though, but I detect what might be a slight bias on your part...


I don't know who is to blame for this problem. It could be MFA programs and the grants and fellowships that allow many writers to be supported by universities rather than readers.

It could be the rise of the mega-bookstores and their determination that "literature" was a section on the store.

See above.
The terms aren't interchangable.


It could be, as Myers contends, the book reviewers; his complaints about the quality of literary criticism are, perhaps vindicated by the decline of book review sections in newspapers.

Yeah, those fucking reviewers. Messing up a good thing with the unholy power they wield.


But it's very good when anyone can stand up and complain about novels that fail to contain stories, or novels that are clogged with affected language that interferes with the story.

You're cutting quite a swath in here these days.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. I disagree with large parts of it.
And while I do agree, in principle, with some of the points raised in the essay, I resent the bad-cherry-picking approach that Myers uses to support those points.

You also, I think, have a particular set of blinders on: it is clear that you see "story" as the end-all and be-all of fiction. Which is just fine, that's your choice. There are others who would argue in favour of the language over the narrative, or for a greater balance between the two. For some, what you see as "affected prose and tortured metaphors and strings of nonsensical clauses" are what they prefer.

I find it difficult to have an issue with that.

Miss Plum
05-07-2010, 08:04 PM
As a genre writer, I'm going to refer to this article as a list of examples of what not to do...or to do only when trying to accomplish a special effect.

...

as individual object lessons it's a wonderful article.
Me likey.

Have you ever read "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell? He provides similar examples and gives some larger reasons for combating the abuse of language. He also wrote a very interesting essay called "Boys Weeklies" about the abuse of language in genre fiction. It's fresh today.

djf881
05-07-2010, 08:06 PM
This.

Though I would add "carefully selected" to your "bad phrases".

The phrases he used as examples were phrases that were singled out for specific praise in book reviews from major publication. His big beef is with critics, and his thesis is that the very things that the critical establishment praises for being good writing are, in fact bad writing.

I think literary criticism has far less cachet than he gives it credit for. But he's correct about the writing.

willietheshakes
05-07-2010, 08:08 PM
The phrases he used as examples were phrases that were singled out for specific praise in book reviews from major publication. His big beef is with critics, and his thesis is that the very things that the critical establishment praises for being good writing are, in fact bad writing.

I think literary criticism has far less cachet than he gives it credit for. But he's correct about the writing.

In your estimation, and according to your beliefs.

Miss Plum
05-07-2010, 08:24 PM
I don't know who is to blame for this problem. It could be MFA programs and the grants and fellowships that allow many writers to be supported by universities rather than readers.
Another excuse to invoke Orwell's great essay, "Politics and the English Language"!

I think you're onto something when you bring up the universities, MFA programs, and fellowships. Academia is where a lot of rather sinister elitism is being fostered nowadays. As Myers says, these critics and writers are essentially telling you that if you don't get it and you don't like it, you're just thick. You'd best go hoe the weeds and leave the important work to us superior thinkers.

For evidence, I point to the hyperintellectualism that goes hand in hand with the smothering, condescending control we're increasingly being subjected to in our society.

djf881
05-07-2010, 08:46 PM
Literature is not a genre, no. But we're not talking about literature; we're talking about literary fiction. There's a difference.


When you take one shelf in the store and call it "literary fiction," that designation implies that the one thing is literature, and that everything else ain't.

I'm aware that we're talking here about marketing designations, but still, literature is, by necessity, literary.





Yeah, those fucking reviewers. Messing up a good thing with the unholy power they wield.


Well, Myers takes particular issue with the critics. Their influence is clearly on the wane. Oprah and Glenn Beck are far more influential as tastemakers.

I don't know what the cause is, which is why I mentioned several possible culprits.

You might also blame publishers for pursuing a blockbuster acquisition model.

You can also blame readers. Myers suggests that people have gotten lazier and stupider. I think people have probably always been lazy and stupid. But they do seem to read less now.

Another possibility is that the novel is simply a dying form that cannot compete, in the long term, with other media. Some of the best literature of the last decade was written for television shows.

willietheshakes
05-07-2010, 08:51 PM
When you take one shelf in the store and call it "literary fiction," that designation implies that the one thing is literature, and that everything else ain't.

I'm aware that we're talking here about marketing designations, but still, literature is, by necessity, literary.

No, it's not.

"Literature" is a measure of time -- works of literature are either canonical, or have lasted long enough to be near-canonical.

And much literature -- think Dickens, for example -- was not among the "literary" works of its time.

djf881
05-07-2010, 09:05 PM
Another excuse to invoke Orwell's great essay, "Politics and the English Language"!

I think you're onto something when you bring up the universities, MFA programs, and fellowships. Academia is where a lot of rather sinister elitism is being fostered nowadays. As Myers says, these critics and writers are essentially telling you that if you don't get it and you don't like it, you're just thick. You'd best go hoe the weeds and leave the important work to us superior thinkers.

For evidence, I point to the hyperintellectualism that goes hand in hand with the smothering, condescending control we're increasingly being subjected to in our society.

The point Myers is making is not that fiction has gotten smarter, but that it has gotten dumber. He thinks that an audience that wants to engage new ideas has been replaced with one that wants to be mystified by solemnly-intoned gibberish.

He says that the intelligent audience has abandoned serious contemporary fiction to go watch "Breaking Bad," which is awesome. The audience left to contemporary literary fiction is composed of status-hungry boneheads who want to impress people on the subway by reading "Snow Falling on Cedars."

If you subscribe to the school of thought that blames the MFA for the decline of literature, the narrative is less about being sinister and more about being insular. A lot of the prestigious literary journals lose tons of money and are supported by universities. Many of them now have more incoming submissions than outgoing circulation.

These things continue to be published, even though they are no longer read, so interfacing with the reader is no longer the objective. The career path is to go to the MFA program which is funded by a fellowship, to write something that is well-received but probably not widely-read, and then to earn a living teaching creative writing. The audience doesn't merit consideration, so the writing becomes self-absorbed.

This is maybe a more recent phenomenon than the Myers article; you see that many major award nominees and winners now have very low sales prior to their awards publicity.

And there's a chicken-or-egg question; did the literary audience disappear because writers stopped writing for it? Or did writers stop writing for the audience because the audience disappered?

backslashbaby
05-07-2010, 09:14 PM
Why do folks associate liking Lit Fic with status-seeking so often? I suppose there are people who like to think of what people think about what they are reading, but it's certainly not a requirement.

Some people just like it. They have pet rats and are too loud and come from Portsmouth with a blue-collar family and attend Oxford University for the material, and they just like what they like. I have proof of that ;) My awesome friend and former classmate across the pond :)

All of this status stuff is not necessarily a fair reason to dislike Lit Fic or those who read it. At least don't assume that it's true for the people you are categorizing.

SJ Gordon
05-07-2010, 09:20 PM
I'll be the first to admit that literature (in any form) has not been the subject of vast study on my part. That isn't my background and I can be called nothing more than a newbie in this whole Great World of Writing, Literature, and the Art of the Word. I think it's also fair to say that while I am a devoted reader, I lean almost exclusively toward genre fiction. Just my personal taste.

But this debate and the bruhaha I unintentionally began on the subject of fanfiction both amuses and baffles me. I love to read the spirited discussion but I am surprised by the vehemence of some replies. Please don't misunderstand. I'm not criticising anyone for having a strong opinion. I just never thought about how powerful these opinions (convictions is probably a better word) can be. I've always felt that there are as many genres, styles, stories, characters, and settings as there are writers and readers to enjoy them. I don't count one as superior to others, personally. If one finds a style or story one doesn't care for, I think it's absolutely okay to put the book down and say, "I didn't really enjoy that." Go ahead and explain why, if you like. But always acknowledge and respect the fact that there will be someone who disagrees with you, right?

Phaeal
05-07-2010, 10:00 PM
My favorite part of the article was when he contrasted the tortured figures with Nabokov's elegance of observation and imagination:

Midges "continuously darning the air in one spot"

The "square echo" of a car door slamming

Mmmm, yes. That's making the world new again.

Perks
05-07-2010, 10:28 PM
This article swung me about a good bit, because I can't stand Annie Proulx, but I do like many things stamped "literary fiction". I agreed and disagreed with him all over the place and then realized that he kneecapped any hope of making a resounding point right in the opening paragraphs -


For years now editors, critics, and prize jurors, not to mention novelists themselves, have been telling the rest of us how lucky we are to be alive and reading in these exciting times. The absence of a dominant school of criticism, we are told, has given rise to an extraordinary variety of styles, a smorgasbord with something for every palate.

He thinks this isn't true, but I do and once he'd pointed it out, I couldn't help coming back to the notion that it's incredibly arrogant to assert that people who claim to be enjoying something are lying.

I even believe some people like basketball.

maestrowork
05-07-2010, 10:33 PM
i want to read someone's 24-page tirade on why he doesn't like chocolate ice cream.

Perks
05-07-2010, 10:37 PM
It's a long rant, but entertaining enough.

maestrowork
05-07-2010, 10:38 PM
No, it's not.

"Literature" is a measure of time -- works of literature are either canonical, or have lasted long enough to be near-canonical.

And much literature -- think Dickens, for example -- was not among the "literary" works of its time.

This.

FOLKS, listen, literature and literary fiction are TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS. Under the Literature section you will find Twain, Dickens, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, Bradbury, and JK Rowling, etc. etc.

Perks
05-07-2010, 10:42 PM
I thought this was an important point, because it's the very thing that has turned me off of writers like Proulx. (Although, I'm not so sure how much it's weighted to female writers. It might be, I just don't know.)


It has become fashionable, especially among female novelists, to exploit the license of poetry while claiming exemption from poetry's rigorous standards of precision and polish.

djf881
05-07-2010, 10:50 PM
This.

FOLKS, listen, literature and literary fiction are TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS. Under the Literature section you will find Twain, Dickens, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, Bradbury, and JK Rowling, etc. etc.

That which is literature is literary. Words have meaning and that's just what the words mean.

I am aware that "literary fiction" is a distinct marketing designation that is derived based on the way books are sold and the way large modern bookstores are organized.

But the designation still imputes the qualities of literature on the books so designated, and implies that other categories lack those qualities. And major awards are given out pretty much exclusively to books that fall within this category.

Myers's criticism is that this category is no longer the fiction that contains the best ideas or the most affecting stories, but, rather, it's become characterized by artificial and affected language.

blacbird
05-07-2010, 11:38 PM
Affected prose and tortured metaphors and strings of nonsensical clauses of do not make something more "literary" than plain, clean language.

Nor are these limited to "literary" fiction. Go take a good look at hard-boiled detective novelist Ross MacDonald if you want to see some truly hilarious "affected prose and tortured metaphors".

caw

Perks
05-07-2010, 11:48 PM
Nor are these limited to "literary" fiction. Go take a good look at hard-boiled detective novelist Ross MacDonald if you want to see some truly hilarious "affected prose and tortured metaphors".

cawOi! Is that ever true. I just read a book by a prize-winning genre suspense writer that featured these two doozies. (Among others. These are just the only ones I remember so vividly.)


... those blue irises rolling around in the yellow orbs like fish on the surface of a bad lake.

and, on discovering some hideous evidence that points to her son being a child molester...


She felt a ripple of illness, as if a vein running from her throat to her pelvis had gone sour.

Priene
05-08-2010, 12:42 AM
But the designation still imputes the qualities of literature on the books so designated, and implies that other categories lack those qualities.

On that logic, chicklit is also synonymous with literature.

Phaeal
05-08-2010, 12:45 AM
I even believe some people like basketball.

Nuh-uh. You're delusional. Those people just like drinking beer while sitting in bleachers.

Phaeal
05-08-2010, 12:46 AM
i want to read someone's 24-page tirade on why he doesn't like chocolate ice cream.

Will never happen. Chocolate ice cream is the universal ambrosia. It's why aliens visit Earth. All UFO sightings can be traced back to 24 hour convenience stores that stock Haagen-Daaz.

willietheshakes
05-08-2010, 12:46 AM
That which is literature is literary. Words have meaning and that's just what the words mean.

You can keep repeating the point, but that doesn't make it true.

By your logic, a sea lion is the same animal as an African lion.


I am aware that "literary fiction" is a distinct marketing designation that is derived based on the way books are sold and the way large modern bookstores are organized.

But the designation still imputes the qualities of literature on the books so designated, and implies that other categories lack those qualities. And major awards are given out pretty much exclusively to books that fall within this category.

Myers's criticism is that this category is no longer the fiction that contains the best ideas or the most affecting stories, but, rather, it's become characterized by artificial and affected language.

I know that's the criticism. And I disagree. Ta da!

Amadan
05-08-2010, 01:24 AM
Literary, today, means a specific genre of fiction. "Literature" has a more nebulous meaning. I think djf881's point is valid: bookstores and the publishing world tend to conflate the two, and that is leading to the two terms becoming synonymous in common usage. Most people still use "literature" to mean, vaguely, "books that are considered high quality and have stood the test of time," but there's kind of an assumption that if highbrow book critics dub something "literary" that it is therefore "literature." JK Rowling is not a literary author; her works may or may not be considered literature in 100 years, but they're not what most people think of as "literature" today.

I'm not sure how helpful it is to argue over what the two words actually mean and what they should mean.

I think Myers's point is basically that the literary genre doesn't want to admit it's a genre -- it's a category that wants to label itself "literature" (i.e., inherently of a higher quality and worthy of respect) just by virtue of the style in which it is written. And that style is often at the expense of substance. Some people do like books that are all about the prose style and they like beautifully written sentences and don't care that much about the story. That's a valid preference, but I daresay that most readers like pretty prose, but they really want a good story.

Pretty prose + good story = good writing.
Pretty prose + bad story = a lot of literary fiction.
Bad prose + good story = a lot of pop fiction.

I have no problem with people who value wordsmithing above storytelling. It's an aesthetic preference. I do have a problem with that preference being considered more refined, like preferring Rowling to Proulx means you're an unsophisticated reader. This is the same prejudice that has plagued genre fiction for ages. It takes no less skill to craft an elegant page-turner of a story than it does to craft elegant, evocative passages. Is it too much to ask for both? And if we admit that most authors are better at one than the other, is it too much to admit that neither one in itself makes a story more worthy of being "literature"?

CaroGirl
05-08-2010, 01:45 AM
I hate this whole argument so much it makes my skin break out in hives and my blood boil. Not a pretty picture.

Now I'm off to write 24 pages about why I hate chocolate ice cream (thanks for the idea, maestro).

Dr.Gonzo
05-08-2010, 02:46 AM
I've been ignorant to this argument. It's quite the eye opener.

The literary equivalent of penis envy.

maestrowork
05-08-2010, 03:01 AM
Nor are these limited to "literary" fiction. Go take a good look at hard-boiled detective novelist Ross MacDonald if you want to see some truly hilarious "affected prose and tortured metaphors".

caw

Agreed. That description describes a particular style of writing -- flowery, figurative, poetic, etc. And it BY NO MEANS is the de facto definition of literary fiction. Or detective novels. Or romance. Or whatever.

Hemingway, for example, used "plain, simple" language and his work is very much literary. Same with Michael Chabon, or Ian McEwan, or Kazuo Ishiguro -- there's not a word I don't understand in their works. What sets theirs apart from other novels is their complex themes and structures and ideas and use of language, by which I don't mean tortured metaphors and affected prose.

Lit fic is all about themes and ideas and structures and less about tropes and conventions and plot -- it's not to say there's no plot in lit fic. It's a HUGE misconception that lit fic doesn't have plot. Not true. It may not be a "good vs. evil" or "boy meets girl" kind of defined plot, but there is usually a good plot in good lit fic.

I am VERY TIRED of having to defend lit fic every few weeks, on a WRITERS board, no less. Just as I don't rip people for writing fantasy (I do not like or read fantasy -- nothing wrong with them... just not my cup of tea), I wish people would just set aside the wrong idea. Read a couple GOOD literary fiction and understand what the genre really is, instead of some biased notion of tortured metaphors.

maestrowork
05-08-2010, 03:03 AM
Now I'm off to write 24 pages about why I hate chocolate ice cream (thanks for the idea, maestro).

I think I'd read that.

geardrops
05-08-2010, 03:04 AM
Literary writers are elitist snobs and genre writers are gibbering twits.

Am I doing it right? :)

maestrowork
05-08-2010, 03:07 AM
And to say King's and Sparks' and Rowling's works are considered "literature" means they write literary fiction is seriously laughable. Or to say Bradbury or Clarke or Tolkien can't be considered literature because their works are genre would just be as wrong.

maestrowork
05-08-2010, 03:08 AM
Literary writers are elitist snobs and genre writers are gibbering twits.

Am I doing it right? :)

Are those the only two choices?

I think I'm going for butter pecan ice cream this time, just to spite you folks.

SirOtter
05-08-2010, 04:27 AM
I have to wonder if Dr. Swift would be amused or appalled that so many people who really ought to know better were still fighting over which end of the egg to open.

I occurs to me that the balkanization of literature into genres (which only began less than ninety years ago with the proliferation of specialized pulp magazines) might have been taken as an excuse by MFA professors to narrow the list of books they feel compelled to teach to a manageable number. "Oops, we've now exceeded the limit. We'll have to drop someone. Hey, look, Maugham wrote a spy book (one of the best prior to Casino Royale, IMHO), so out he goes. How about Kipling? "The Mark of the Beast"? Say no more - and study no more!" Wonder when Shakespeare will get the boot for all his ghosts and fairies and such, not to mention that Hamlet is basically a supernatural murder mystery. Or has he already? I can't keep up anymore.

Yes, I'm being facetious, but the whole argument strikes me as a tad ludicrous. Oscar Wilde (Dorian Gray!?!? No way!) said that the only obscene book is a badly written one. There have been a lot of badly written books in the various genres, literary included (Let's face it, The Road is a pretty sorry piece of tripe on several levels), so let's shove all the obscene ones (by Wilde's definition) to the floor on a case-by-case basis rather than give ourselves the permission to exclude whole swaths of writings just because we find it inconvenient to have to consider anything outre or fabulistic. Like Gulliver's Travels, or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, or A Christmas Carol. Or Salem's Lot, for that matter.

Not that anyone who has the power to affect any sort of change is even paying attention.

RemusShepherd
05-08-2010, 08:34 AM
Literary writers are elitist snobs and genre writers are gibbering twits.

Am I doing it right? :)

I'm gibbering my disagreement with you as strongly as possible. ;)

wrangler
05-08-2010, 09:22 AM
A friend sent me this link from The Atlantic. Looks pretty intense at first glance and a nice complement to the newly raging fanfic rants. Not to mention the ever-raging lit fic vs. gen fic rants. ;)

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-reader-apos-s-manifesto/2270/
I could not find the link.

The Lonely One
05-08-2010, 09:37 AM
The link is broken for me; but IMO if you want some contemporary Lit Fic that will keep you entertained (Gasp!) try Steve Almond's The Evil B.B. Chow. Particularly the story "Skull."

NoGuessing
05-08-2010, 09:52 AM
Agreed. That description describes a particular style of writing -- flowery, figurative, poetic, etc. And it BY NO MEANS is the de facto definition of literary fiction. Or detective novels. Or romance. Or whatever.

Hemingway, for example, used "plain, simple" language and his work is very much literary. Same with Michael Chabon, or Ian McEwan, or Kazuo Ishiguro -- there's not a word I don't understand in their works. What sets theirs apart from other novels is their complex themes and structures and ideas and use of language, by which I don't mean tortured metaphors and affected prose.

Lit fic is all about themes and ideas and structures and less about tropes and conventions and plot -- it's not to say there's no plot in lit fic. It's a HUGE misconception that lit fic doesn't have plot. Not true. It may not be a "good vs. evil" or "boy meets girl" kind of defined plot, but there is usually a good plot in good lit fic.

I am VERY TIRED of having to defend lit fic every few weeks, on a WRITERS board, no less. Just as I don't rip people for writing fantasy (I do not like or read fantasy -- nothing wrong with them... just not my cup of tea), I wish people would just set aside the wrong idea. Read a couple GOOD literary fiction and understand what the genre really is, instead of some biased notion of tortured metaphors.

I hope you're not labelling "genre" as not being about themes and ideas.

Personally, I don't really care what people write. If you like it, read it.

What gets my back up is the snobbery in certain areas towards certain genres.

gothicangel
05-08-2010, 10:33 AM
And the wheel keeps turning . . .

Ian Rankin and David Peace are two of my favourite literary writers. Yes, they are crime writers. :rolleyes:

aruna
05-08-2010, 11:11 AM
and, on discovering some hideous evidence that points to her son being a child molester...


She felt a ripple of illness, as if a vein running from her throat to her pelvis had gone sour.]

oooh, I have to say I like that one... it's exactly how I felt when, at 14, my son got into trouble with the police (not for anything nasty though!) hough the sour vein was to my stomach, more than to my pelvis.

Miss Plum
05-08-2010, 03:09 PM
The point Myers is making is not that fiction has gotten smarter, but that it has gotten dumber. He thinks that an audience that wants to engage new ideas has been replaced with one that wants to be mystified by solemnly-intoned gibberish.

He says that the intelligent audience has abandoned serious contemporary fiction to go watch "Breaking Bad," which is awesome. The audience left to contemporary literary fiction is composed of status-hungry boneheads who want to impress people on the subway by reading "Snow Falling on Cedars."

If you subscribe to the school of thought that blames the MFA for the decline of literature, the narrative is less about being sinister and more about being insular. A lot of the prestigious literary journals lose tons of money and are supported by universities. Many of them now have more incoming submissions than outgoing circulation.

These things continue to be published, even though they are no longer read, so interfacing with the reader is no longer the objective. The career path is to go to the MFA program which is funded by a fellowship, to write something that is well-received but probably not widely-read, and then to earn a living teaching creative writing. The audience doesn't merit consideration, so the writing becomes self-absorbed.

This is maybe a more recent phenomenon than the Myers article; you see that many major award nominees and winners now have very low sales prior to their awards publicity.

And there's a chicken-or-egg question; did the literary audience disappear because writers stopped writing for it? Or did writers stop writing for the audience because the audience disappered?
I think you've brilliantly stated what was implied in my remark about something "sinister." Widen your observation a bit beyond literature. In general, elitists are getting dumber, not smarter, but in many areas of society, they're still the ones with the power.

djf881
05-08-2010, 05:59 PM
Agreed. That description describes a particular style of writing -- flowery, figurative, poetic, etc. And it BY NO MEANS is the de facto definition of literary fiction. Or detective novels. Or romance. Or whatever.

Hemingway, for example, used "plain, simple" language and his work is very much literary. Same with Michael Chabon, or Ian McEwan, or Kazuo Ishiguro -- there's not a word I don't understand in their works. What sets theirs apart from other novels is their complex themes and structures and ideas and use of language, by which I don't mean tortured metaphors and affected prose.

Lit fic is all about themes and ideas and structures and less about tropes and conventions and plot -- it's not to say there's no plot in lit fic. It's a HUGE misconception that lit fic doesn't have plot. Not true. It may not be a "good vs. evil" or "boy meets girl" kind of defined plot, but there is usually a good plot in good lit fic.

I am VERY TIRED of having to defend lit fic every few weeks, on a WRITERS board, no less. Just as I don't rip people for writing fantasy (I do not like or read fantasy -- nothing wrong with them... just not my cup of tea), I wish people would just set aside the wrong idea. Read a couple GOOD literary fiction and understand what the genre really is, instead of some biased notion of tortured metaphors.

These are the ideas that make everything worse. Literature is that which is literary. These things aren't separate. Literary fiction isn't a fucking sea lion, and dividing sea creatures into those which are like lions and those which aren't doesn't mean the same thing as designating which fiction is literary.

The fiction that becomes literature is the fiction that contains the most enduring themes, the best stories. And the fiction that becomes literature tends to be very well-written. Otherwise, it wouldn't last. The potboilers and the formula exercises don't last, not even the bestselling ones, because new trends eclipse the old ones, and refuse gets buried under more refuse.

There have always been genres, in terms of the idea of a crime story or a ghost story. But segregating the bookstore along these forms, with a separate "literary" section does nothing to separate the new classics and from the potboilers, especially since so much so-called "literary fiction" is bad, overwrought stuff nobody reads, with no non-obvious themes or ideas and a very weak narrative framework. If I could reorganize the bookstore, I'd shelve all the fiction alphabetically by author.

If you look at a classic, enduring detective novel like "The Maltese Falcon," there's a plot and a central mystery that the protagonist has to untangle. But the resolution of the mystery is that the MacGuffin everyone is chasing is a fraud; it's nothing, and the climax of the book is the protagonist having to decide what he must do about a woman he loves, but can't trust.

Thematically, it's very strong. The pursuit of the Maltese Falcon and its subsequent revelation as a fraud works on several symbolic and thematic levels. It comments on the futility of man's struggles and machinations, and how they come to nothing at the end. And it essentially acknowledges the central literary idea about the construction of story and plot as artificial. These are complex and interesting ideas, presented in a fresh and exciting way, while simultaneously working as page-turning story. And the characterization is extremely strong and well-rounded and organic, and leads to a well-earned and effective emotional climax.

And the writing is fantastic. It's visual and tactile when it needs to be. When he uses figurative language, it's apt and perfect and so clever you wish you'd written it yourself. But, despite his great facility with wordplay and metaphor, he shows restraint and doesn't smother the story with it. The novel is concise and compact and fast-moving. Dashiell Hammett outclasses the ponderous bullshit that calls itself literary by every single measure.

Similarly, I don't doubt for a moment that J.R.R. Tolkien intended to create a work of literature when he wrote "Lord of the Rings." It's got layers and layers of themes and ideas; religious symbolism, political allegory, ideas about power and its inherent capacity to corrupt the well-meaning, about the sadness and exhilaration of living in a world on the edge of momentous transformation, about the exciting possibilities of progress and about the precious and beautiful things that get sacrificed or lost along the way to an ostensibly happy ending.

Tolkien's language is fucking magnificent. When you finish reading these books you feel like you've been to those places. And the experience of reading it is rapturous and transcendent in ways that are earned through a compelling story and believable characters. This is an achievement that Annie Proulx and Paul Harding entirely fail to duplicate with their precious sentences.

When you shelve Tolkien and CS Lewis and Philip K. Dick and George Orwell as "Scifi/Fantasy," and you put Hammett and Chandler and Ellroy in "Mystery/Thriller" and William Golding and JD Salinger in "YA," what integrity is there to the idea of a "literary" section that fails to include these writers?

And the designations are destructive; when you pull coming-of-age novels out of general fiction and call them "young adult" then they become virtually unpublishable unless they are written for an audience of children. There'd probably no place in the modern bookstore for "Catcher in the Rye" if it was new fiction. And writers contort themselves to meet whatever the idea of "literary fiction" is instead of trying to write literature. Clean conversational prose that effectively communicates those important themes and ideas falls out of favor as writers pile on excessive figurative language to justify their literaryness.

Mr Flibble
05-08-2010, 06:11 PM
Literature is that which is literary. For one of its definitions possibly, but not the main one. It also means plain old 'printed matter' or 'The body of written works of a language, period, or culture' etc. In fact only one of the five definitions (number 4 in importance as it happens)in my dictionary says anything about quality: Imaginative or creative writing, especially of recognised artistic value - which means literature is not exclusively of recognised artistic value.

So I think you're just playing with semantics


When you shelve Tolkien and CS Lewis and Philip K. Dick and George Orwell as "Scifi/Fantasy," and you put Hammett and Chandler and Ellroy in "Mystery/Thriller" and Salinger in "YA," what integrity is there to the idea of a "literary" section that fails to include these writers?

No they get shelved there because there's three fiction sections in my local bookshop apart from kids - SFF(including horror), crime, everything else. The everything else is literally everything from romance through chick-lit, mainstream, historical. And yes literary, which is just another genre with its own conventions and tropes. Literary doesn't mean 'all fancy words and no plot' and more than romance means 'boddice-ripper'. Bad examples exist in all genres.

Yes some genre can also be literary(in fact that's my preferred reading) - because cross-genre work is very common.

willietheshakes
05-08-2010, 09:31 PM
These are the ideas that make everything worse. Literature is that which is literary. These things aren't separate. Literary fiction isn't a fucking sea lion, and dividing sea creatures into those which are like lions and those which aren't doesn't mean the same thing as designating which fiction is literary.

The fiction that becomes literature is the fiction that contains the most enduring themes, the best stories. And the fiction that becomes literature tends to be very well-written. Otherwise, it wouldn't last. The potboilers and the formula exercises don't last, not even the bestselling ones, because new trends eclipse the old ones, and refuse gets buried under more refuse.

There have always been genres, in terms of the idea of a crime story or a ghost story. But segregating the bookstore along these forms, with a separate "literary" section does nothing to separate the new classics and from the potboilers, especially since so much so-called "literary fiction" is bad, overwrought stuff nobody reads, with no non-obvious themes or ideas and a very weak narrative framework. If I could reorganize the bookstore, I'd shelve all the fiction alphabetically by author.

If you look at a classic, enduring detective novel like "The Maltese Falcon," there's a plot and a central mystery that the protagonist has to untangle. But the resolution of the mystery is that the MacGuffin everyone is chasing is a fraud; it's nothing, and the climax of the book is the protagonist having to decide what he must do about a woman he loves, but can't trust.

Thematically, it's very strong. The pursuit of the Maltese Falcon and its subsequent revelation as a fraud works on several symbolic and thematic levels. It comments on the futility of man's struggles and machinations, and how they come to nothing at the end. And it essentially acknowledges the central literary idea about the construction of story and plot as artificial. These are complex and interesting ideas, presented in a fresh and exciting way, while simultaneously working as page-turning story. And the characterization is extremely strong and well-rounded and organic, and leads to a well-earned and effective emotional climax.

And the writing is fantastic. It's visual and tactile when it needs to be. When he uses figurative language, it's apt and perfect and so clever you wish you'd written it yourself. But, despite his great facility with wordplay and metaphor, he shows restraint and doesn't smother the story with it. The novel is concise and compact and fast-moving. Dashiell Hammett outclasses the ponderous bullshit that calls itself literary by every single measure.

Similarly, I don't doubt for a moment that J.R.R. Tolkien intended to create a work of literature when he wrote "Lord of the Rings." It's got layers and layers of themes and ideas; religious symbolism, political allegory, ideas about power and its inherent capacity to corrupt the well-meaning, about the sadness and exhilaration of living in a world on the edge of momentous transformation, about the exciting possibilities of progress and about the precious and beautiful things that get sacrificed or lost along the way to an ostensibly happy ending.

Tolkien's language is fucking magnificent. When you finish reading these books you feel like you've been to those places. And the experience of reading it is rapturous and transcendent in ways that are earned through a compelling story and believable characters. This is an achievement that Annie Proulx and Paul Harding entirely fail to duplicate with their precious sentences.

When you shelve Tolkien and CS Lewis and Philip K. Dick and George Orwell as "Scifi/Fantasy," and you put Hammett and Chandler and Ellroy in "Mystery/Thriller" and William Golding and JD Salinger in "YA," what integrity is there to the idea of a "literary" section that fails to include these writers?

And the designations are destructive; when you pull coming-of-age novels out of general fiction and call them "young adult" then they become virtually unpublishable unless they are written for an audience of children. There'd probably no place in the modern bookstore for "Catcher in the Rye" if it was new fiction. And writers contort themselves to meet whatever the idea of "literary fiction" is instead of trying to write literature. Clean conversational prose that effectively communicates those important themes and ideas falls out of favor as writers pile on excessive figurative language to justify their literaryness.

Okay.

Putting aside the misconceptions and biases you continue to exhibit, it's difficult to discuss something with someone who refuses to speak the same language, so I'm bowing out.

Enjoy yourself.

kuwisdelu
05-09-2010, 12:28 AM
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

That's all I have to say.

I like literary fiction. I liked many of those passages, too. Not because I "get" them, not because I'm being told I should. I just fucking like them. If that makes me elitist, fine, whatever. I'll keep liking it, and I hope those "elitist" literary fiction writers keep writing it.

If you don't like it, go read something else.

Gah!

*head explodes*

Perks
05-09-2010, 12:52 AM
It's funny, I keep drifting back into this thread, because both my agent and an editor at Bantam insist that I am a literary writer. And that's fine. I read a lot of lit-fic and would be happy to labeled as such if it suits them to do so and it makes anybody's job easier. Apparently the problem comes in with the fact that I write suspense stories in a 'literary' style. I keep being asked to decide which I am.

I got nuthin'. I'm Popeye, I guess. I yam what I yam.

Obviously, it's a problem.

Mr Flibble
05-09-2010, 01:00 AM
Apparently the problem comes in with the fact that I write suspense stories in a 'literary' style.

I would so read anything marketed as that

Perks
05-09-2010, 01:04 AM
I would so read anything marketed as that

I love you.

Thank you for saying that.

I've had this discussion several times, and it seems logical enough to me, but all I keep hearing is that it doesn't work that way. And these are rock star agents and editors we're talking about.

It's very flattering to have gotten dumped into the deep end without a clue-floatie, but it would have been a lot more flattering if they'd snapped it up and said, "Yes, this is something we can use." Predominately it's been a year of telling me that I've done something desperately tricky.

kuwisdelu
05-09-2010, 01:11 AM
Any genre can be literary. I see nothing wrong with literary suspense.

Perks
05-09-2010, 01:11 AM
Me neither. Tell New York.

willietheshakes
05-09-2010, 01:14 AM
Me neither. Tell New York.

I would think Steig Larsson, Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin and dozens of others would have transmitted that message pretty plainly...

Mr Flibble
05-09-2010, 01:21 AM
It's just a cross genre thing - like Fantasy Romance or Chick Lit Mystery or something. Hardly a biggy I would have thought

Can't see much of a problem - two markets to go for!

This probably why I'm not an agent :D Seriously though - I love to see something that's as much one genre as another.

Perks
05-09-2010, 01:24 AM
I would think Steig Larsson, Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin and dozens of others would have transmitted that message pretty plainly...I know! These are some of the very people I've cited and I get, "Well yeah, but the market's so delicate right now. Nobody is buying what they can't define in a word." Not even a hyphenated word? Lol! It's been weird.

SirOtter
05-09-2010, 01:29 AM
I would so read anything marketed as that

And there's the conceit that funnels books into artitrary genre classifications, or back to the author with a "sincere" 'thanks but no thanks, not bad but I have no idea who to sell this to' form letter. Marketing trumps quality. How else to explain Twilight? The publishers know how to market sparkly vampires and tabula rasa heroines, but not something that is not aimed at a specific and well-defined demographic. Bella has as much character definition as the semi-formed pod-person on King Donovan's pool table*, the style is primitive, the editing non-existent, there's no plot to speak of, but that's what is killing trees wholesale rather than any number of well-written books in every genre. Publishers know adolescent females are not particularly discriminating in their tastes, but will jump on a story that allows them to project their fantasy personage onto a blank heroine.

God help us all.

*Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956. I often feel as if I ought to annotate all my missives. :D

willietheshakes
05-09-2010, 01:31 AM
I know! These are some of the very people I've cited and I get, "Well yeah, but the market's so delicate right now. Nobody is buying what they can't define in a word." Not even a hyphenated word? Lol! It's been weird.

If I had to guess, the issue is a potential difficulty in promoting to the mystery readers. Neither Mankell nor Rankin were marketed as literary, or lit-mystery: they were marketed to the genre, and only after that were their literary merits "discovered". If your agents and/or potential publishers are looking for straight mystery, they may have concerns about pacing or language being inappropriate for that genre and its readers (ie, too slow a pace might be off-putting to readers more accustomed to a more traditional mystery pacing).

There's nothing saying, though, that it can't be submitted and/or published just as fiction -- there are a lot of mysteries in the fiction aisles without an issue. That choice, however, would make for a possibly harder slog in one way: you wouldn't necessarily have the large and ravenous mystery readership to market to...

Perks
05-09-2010, 01:41 AM
Yeah, Mr. Shakes, that's in line with what I'm hearing.

Mr Flibble
05-09-2010, 02:02 AM
And there's the conceit that funnels books into artitrary genre classifications, or back to the author with a "sincere" 'thanks but no thanks, not bad but I have no idea who to sell this to' form letter.

Not sure I'm getting you. I like cross genre stuff. Stuff that isn't the usual. This does not mean I like Twilight.

Can you be a bit clearer? (please bear in mind my user name)

SirOtter
05-09-2010, 02:49 AM
Not sure I'm getting you. I like cross genre stuff. Stuff that isn't the usual. This does not mean I like Twilight.

Can you be a bit clearer? (please bear in mind my user name)

LOL As I tell my students, the only dumb question is the one you don't ask. :D

I simply meant that decisions of what will or won't be published have more to do with marketing than any other criteria. Genre is pretty much irrelevant, except as a marketing tool. If a specific work is expected to appeal to a specific demographic the publisher thinks will spend obscene amounts of money on it, that's what gets the big push. If a work does not have a readily identifiable well-heeled demographic, publication is less likely. My reference to Twilight was as an example of something of dubious quality that was known to have an appeal for a certain class of reader with low expectations and plenty of disposable income. When those of us who appreciate good writing, regardless of the artificial genre classification, have that amount of passion and do-re-mi, we'll also be catered to on the same level.

Mr Flibble
05-09-2010, 03:04 AM
I simply meant that decisions of what will or won't be published have more to do with marketing than any other criteria

Well yeah, cos publishers aren't charities you know? Profit allows food to be bought. If there's only two people who want to read your book - it isn't going to get pubbed. However I will say that a lot more emphasis is given to 'the hook' these days. Possibly to the detriment of a good story, but the pub has to make money. Hook is a good way of doing that. A sign of the economic times perhaps? When money is short go for the 'sure thing'

My reference to Twilight was as an example of something of dubious quality that was known to have an appeal for a certain class of reader with low expectations and plenty of disposable income. It was possibly know to have an appeal or it wouldn't have been pubbed. Did they expect the outcome? Unlikely - even pubs can't be sure what the next big thing is - they can only hope and take a chance on what come sin their inbox. They did however target a particular demographic - because that's what a savvy marketing dept does. The problem come when they don't have a clear demographic. You and I think 'well promo both markets' but I don't know about you, I don't have any marketing savvy. Maybe that thins the marketing by having to appeal to two markets - which is why they appeal to one first and hope the other catches on.

SirOtter
05-09-2010, 03:18 AM
I will say that a lot more emphasis is given to 'the hook' these days. Possibly to the detriment of a good story, but the pub has to make money. Hook is a good way of doing that. A sign of the economic times perhaps? When money is short go for the 'sure thing'


Yes, that's precisely the business model these days. The economy is too uncertain to take any risks, although they're in the process managing to avoid finding any diamonds in the rough. Playing it safe keeps them afloat for now, but doesn't do you or I much good as writers. It's like sitting on a well-built raft just off shore, hoping the tide will take you to safety but not doing any paddling for fear of capsizing.

I doubt anyone worried about Twilight not being a huge hit. It contains all the elements that would appeal to its target demographic, without anything in it to challenge their intellects beyond their capacity. Somebody must have watched Josie and the Pussycats, and taken notes. Same marketing technique. It works, if you don't mind contributing to the on-going dumbing down of the species.

Mr Flibble
05-09-2010, 03:24 AM
Playing it safe keeps them afloat for now, but doesn't do you or I much good as writers.

It's only to our detriment if we don't write a good book. ;) I sincerely believe that if you write a good book with a market for it( ie it's not very niche) it will sell. Eventually at least lol.

Think of all the books you really enjoyed. I mean like loved. Did they have a hook, or not( I don't mean the one actually used, I mean can you think of a great hook for them?)

Write a great book. Think of a great hook. Win.

Ryan David Jahn
05-09-2010, 04:21 AM
It's funny, I keep drifting back into this thread, because both my agent and an editor at Bantam insist that I am a literary writer. And that's fine. I read a lot of lit-fic and would be happy to labeled as such if it suits them to do so and it makes anybody's job easier. Apparently the problem comes in with the fact that I write suspense stories in a 'literary' style. I keep being asked to decide which I am.

I got nuthin'. I'm Popeye, I guess. I yam what I yam.

Obviously, it's a problem.

It's a weird business, eh? My first novel was marketed in the UK as a crime novel -- which is what I say it is when asked -- and has been well received, but my US publisher is planning on selling it as literary fiction ... with a crime premise. And a different title.

But I can't say they're wrong. According to several reader reviews on Amazon, even five star reviews, "it's not really a crime novel," but I still have little idea why.

Anyway: you're not alone.

Amadan
05-09-2010, 04:35 AM
I doubt anyone worried about Twilight not being a huge hit. It contains all the elements that would appeal to its target demographic, without anything in it to challenge their intellects beyond their capacity. Somebody must have watched Josie and the Pussycats, and taken notes. Same marketing technique. It works, if you don't mind contributing to the on-going dumbing down of the species.

If it were that easy, every new YA title would be the next Big Thing. I'm sure the publishers hoped that Twilight would be popular, but to say that they knew they had a sure thing gives marketing too much credit. If anyone could generate a guaranteed cash cow by following a predictable formula, everyone would do it.

For example, Harry Potter was never expected to sell big. The publisher thought it was good enough to get published, but figured it would be just another children's book with a small following, hopefully large enough to turn a profit. It didn't really become a big phenomenon until the third book or so.

On the other hand, look at all the marketing that went into the Golden Compass movie. It was expected to be huge -- and it bombed. (I don't know if there's an equivalent example of a heavily-hyped book that bombed, but books don't generally have the same media backing as movies anyway.)

I'm sure a lot of people think "My book could be huge and become an Oscar-winning movie if the publishers just put a little more money into promoting it," but it just doesn't work like that.

vnNichols
05-09-2010, 04:59 AM
The Golden Compass bombed because it was intentionally boycotted.

Amadan
05-09-2010, 05:47 AM
The Golden Compass bombed because it was intentionally boycotted.

Nah, the Catholic League claims that, but they really didn't have much impact. They don't have the numbers or influence to significantly influence the box office for a major release. The Golden Compass bombed because it was a so-so movie based on a rather complicated book that was marketed mostly to children. And there is always a certain amount of randomness in what tickles the public's fancy at any given time.

aruna
05-09-2010, 10:14 AM
Back when Bloomsbury was accepting unsolicited manuscripts a very kind editor wrote me saying she loved mine (she had read it, too; she mentioned details of the story, but it didn't "fit" into their very literary list. It was too commercial.

The same ms was rejected by a top agent for being too literary.
What's a girl to do????? For me, it's actually a compliment; sounds like it could fit in both genres, which could only be good, I would have thought. But no.

aruna
05-09-2010, 10:36 AM
On the other hand, look at all the marketing that went into the Golden Compass movie. It was expected to be huge -- and it bombed. (I don't know if there's an equivalent example of a heavily-hyped book that bombed, but books don't generally have the same media backing as movies anyway.)

.

There is, and it's even got a name: The Londonstani Effect. (http://www.thebookseller.com/in-depth/feature/56616-lbf-assessing-the-risks.html)

Avoiding the “Londonstani effect” is how some agents and publishers describe it. At the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2005, all the buzz was centred on one book: Gautam Malkani’s Hounslow-set novel, Londonstani. Fourth Estate publishing director Nicholas Pearson paid around £380,000 for the book and a follow-up, fighting off heated rivalry from fellow-publishers after several rounds of bidding.
.....
Two-and-a-half years on, the novel has sold a distinctly average 15,000 copies.

willietheshakes
05-09-2010, 11:24 AM
Nah, the Catholic League claims that, but they really didn't have much impact. They don't have the numbers or influence to significantly influence the box office for a major release. The Golden Compass bombed because it was a so-so movie based on a rather complicated book that was marketed mostly to children. And there is always a certain amount of randomness in what tickles the public's fancy at any given time.

And a perhaps needlessly explicitly violent movie, for one being marketed to kids. Most of the reviews mentioned this, which I suspect put off a lot of parents (including us, despite the fact that we were dead keen to see it).

Mr. Anonymous
05-09-2010, 11:29 AM
don't agree with everything he said (and I kind of liked some of the excerpts he attacked) but if there's one thing I can definitely agree with him on it is that some literary writing tends to border on incomprehensible.

I read a sentence. I re-read a sentence. I turn it over in my mind. It doesn't make much sense. And when that happens, I can't help but feel annoyed at the author for being so self-indulgent as to include a sentence just because he/she liked the sound of it. But maybe that's just me.

aruna
05-09-2010, 11:41 AM
don't agree with everything he said (and I kind of liked some of the excerpts he attacked) but if there's one thing I can definitely agree with him on it is that some literary writing tends to border on incomprehensible.

I read a sentence. I re-read a sentence. I turn it over in my mind. It doesn't make much sense. And when that happens, I can't help but feel annoyed at the author for being so self-indulgent as to include a sentence just because he/she liked the sound of it. But maybe that's just me.


You must be reading a different kind of literary fiction than me, then, because I hardly ever come across such a book, and I read mostly literary fiction. Or is that your definition per se of literary fiction, thus anyhting that doesn't fit that description isn't, by definition, literary?

Surely one of the arbiters of literary fiction is the Man Booker Prize, whatever you think of their choices. Read the opening pages of this novel and tell me if you think they
border on incomprehensible.

Or

I read a sentence. I re-read a sentence. I turn it over in my mind. It doesn't make much sense. And when that happens, I can't help but feel annoyed at the author for being so self-indulgent as to include a sentence just because he/she liked the sound of it.

Does this happen with these pages?

http://www.amazon.com/White-Tiger-Novel-Booker-Prize/dp/1416562605/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273390542&sr=1-1#reader_1416562605

Mr Flibble
05-09-2010, 03:40 PM
For example, Harry Potter was never expected to sell big. The publisher thought it was good enough to get published, but figured it would be just another children's book with a small following, hopefully large enough to turn a profit. It didn't really become a big phenomenon until the third book or so.

A lot of that was down to JKR's sheer hard work. She went to tons of schools to do readings, got the little darlings hooked so they went home and begged Mummy and Daddy to get it. Then they loved it. Then the parents had a look to see what all the fuss was about....

Yeah there was some luck and a snowball after a certain point. But she worked damn hard to get to that point.

kuwisdelu
05-09-2010, 08:23 PM
You must be reading a different kind of literary fiction than me, then, because I hardly ever come across such a book, and I read mostly literary fiction. Or is that your definition per se of literary fiction, thus anyhting that doesn't fit that description isn't, by definition, literary?

What the lady said.

There's bad stuff in every genre, "literary fiction" included, ever since it started being a genre, whenever that was.

It's like saying all fantasy is a bunch of overblown, purple-prosed Tolkien rip-offs.

Perks
05-09-2010, 08:50 PM
The Golden Compass bombed because it was a so-so movie based on a rather complicated book that was marketed mostly to children. I'd go so far as to say it was bad film. It was amazing they could take something so visually stunning, with big themes and lots of action, and make it a snoozefest.

I wonder if it damaged Pullman's book sales? It was that bad, in my opinion.

Perks
05-09-2010, 08:52 PM
Back when Bloomsbury was accepting unsolicited manuscripts a very kind editor wrote me saying she loved mine (she had read it, too; she mentioned details of the story, but it didn't "fit" into their very literary list. It was too commercial.

The same ms was rejected by a top agent for being too literary.
What's a girl to do????? For me, it's actually a compliment; sounds like it could fit in both genres, which could only be good, I would have thought. But no.

I'm not one of those misery-loves-company types, but I will say that hearing what you and Ryan have said makes me feel less crazy. And in better company, I could add. I've read your work, Aruna. It's wonderful.