Alright, y’all, I recently got something stuck in my craw about genres, and what’s considered “literary,” and stuff. A few months ago in a discussion someone brought up literary fiction and the idea that it was a niche market unto itself since only a certain type/amount of people actually read it. The conversation didn’t really go anywhere because most of the people there were literary types. I guess maybe they thought it was a null point since everyone they knew reads literary fiction.
Over the next weeks the subject kept popping up, I couldn’t escape talk about literary fiction and what the people who read it thought about it and genre writing.
Clarification: For those of you who might not know according to Academia there are basically two types of fiction, literary fiction and genre fiction. Literary Fiction refers to books like: Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Christopher Merkner’s The Rise and Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic. Genre Fiction (and this term is almost used in a derogatory sense) refers to books like: George R. R. Marten’s The Song of Ice and Fire series, Stephen King’s IT, and Christopher Barzak’s One for Sorrow.
Here’s my problem with the people in the Literary Fiction corner: they are continuously writing papers and articles about literature. In most of them there is a clear bias towards Literary Fiction and how so much better it is than Genre Fiction. They are clearly arguing that Literary Fiction rules while Genre Fiction drools.
This makes them a bit of dicks for two reasons. 1) This is a one sided argument, because most (not all) of the people reading these papers and articles are other Literary Fiction people (most of the Genre Fiction people are reading something fun). It’s easy to win an argument when you’re the only one arguing. 2) They want people to read but then they’re telling people that how they read is wrong. It’s like a person telling someone they need to eat to stay healthy, watching them eat, and then telling them how they eat is wrong and they should stop until they figure out how to do it better.
Not that there haven’t been salvo’s fired from the Genre Fiction side, and now here’s my two cents. The whole Literary vs. Genre Fiction argument is just plain dumb. And not just for the above reasons. The simple fact is Literary Fiction is a genre. Go into any bookstore or library. There’ll be a section marked Literature (it will be the section that’s empty or populated by some teens looking for a school assignment).
Genres whether they be literature, fantasy, horror, or mystery are there to help people find what they like to read. It’s really quite clear. That’s it. How hard would it be to find the book you want if you walked into a store or a library and it was just a big pile? That’s why some smarty said: “Why don’t we put them in order like the alphabet?” When there got to be too many books for this to be helpful some other smarty said: “Why don’t we group the books that are like each other in the same section and label the sections after the unifying theme?” Hocus-pocus genres were born. And how helpful they are too.
The point of this whole thing: find what you like to read and don’t let anyone stop you.