Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA - Literary Fiction

The genre of discussion today is general literary fiction.  Which works of art have changed your life?

I have spent most of my life loving literary fiction - I just didn't know what it was until I was much older. In the bedroom hallway of the house I grew up in, my dad introduced my siblings and I to the works of the likes of Mark Twain and James Fenimore Cooper. Did I know that my life was being changed then? Certainly not.

Did it stop me from reading such great things later in my life such as V.C. Andrews' Flowers In The Attic, Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz or Go Ask Alice (which, truth be told, I would have to say impacted my life despite the fact that it may not have been true after all). I also read plenty of genre fiction back in my teens and twenties - lots of Stephen King, John Grisham, and John Jakes.

But that reading start I got, and the man I babysat for as a teen who once asked me why I never read any classics, always stayed with me. So I read E.M. Forster, Henry James, and the Brontes and oh, how I love them. I love the characters, I love the settings, I love the descriptions that can go on for full pages.

The older I get, the more current literary fiction I read. I love that literary fiction makes me think, makes me look at things in a new light, show me the world. It peels back the shiny cover off every day life and makes us explore our own flaws and shortcomings. Yesterday I wrote that literary fiction is writing about ideas but I also think really great literary fiction hinges on characters. Like them or not, when done well, you can't help but what to know what's going to happen to the characters. Take Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteredge - Olive was not a nice woman, not good mother. But in Strout's hands, you began to understand what makes Olive tick, what makes her the way she was, and you did become interested in finding out what would happen to her.

But the term "literary fiction" is just that, a term. More and more, the lines are blurring between literary fiction and genre fiction. Which is making for some really great reading!


  1. I view literary fiction as fiction that's more lyrical, lasting, and perhaps life-changing than regular fiction. A book has literary value when it has both style and substance,and is meaningful and profound.

  2. I love it, too, and thank you for reminding me that I have Olive Kitteridge on my Nook. It's been there for ages and I need to read it already.

  3. I have to admit when I hear the term "literary fiction" I never entirely understand what it means. That makes sense that it is more about ideas, and also that there would be great character development. This BEA question has been enlightening!

  4. LOVED Olive Kitteridge! Yes, I like whatever it is, literary fiction. I can't seem to enjoy chick-lit. I think I need "deep meanings" or is it "complicated characters" with drama overtones?

  5. Olive Kitteridge is sitting on my bookshelf in my room just waiting to be read. But sometimes I just get too depressed with literary fiction. It's fiction but it's about real human issues and problems and sometimes that can be too much for me. But when I do read one, I love it even though I'm crying for a day! Your reading always gives me so many ideas! Thanks, Lisa.