Enough Of "Literary" Fiction

17 Oct

I spent the last days playing God of War in my free time (finished it yesterday). After reading all these “literary” fiction novels I had enough of them. I use inverted comas because for a lot of people “literary” suggests something superior to other kinds of fiction and I don’t feel comfortable with this.

For me, “literary” fiction is a genre among other genres.


  • genres – crime fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, literary fiction, romance fiction, science fiction, women’s fiction. (…)

In most of these cases, the word fiction is even left out. Especially romance fiction is just mostly called romance.

I don’t see fiction like this:


  • literary fiction
  • genres: crime, fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction women’s fiction (…)

which suggests that literary fiction is different and implies that it is therefore better than other kinds of fiction, even if the novel in question failed. Calling a novel “literary” fiction is no statement about the quality of the novel. It’s a statement about the way the novel is written, about the conventions used in writing it.

I’m fed up with literary fiction after reading a couple for the last weeks. The writing that says: “Look at me; I’m an important point; there is more to me than you might think” and: “Look how elaborate I am” sooner or later leads for me to the feeling that I just want to read. For some people that might mean I just want to “escape”, but escape what? In my opinion, I escape when I read “literary” fiction, too.

Looking back, what seems to be most important for me is the story. I didn’t like Paul Auster’s book as much as I could have, because at the beginning he promised one story and ended the novel with another, and these stories could only be brought together by making far-fetched connections between the “look-at-me” points (see above) of the first half and the events of the second half. I didn’t like Italo Calvino’s book as much as I could have, because the frame story about the two readers got weaker the longer the book lasted and the “I’m-important” points in turn got louder and louder. And I didn’t like Tom Wolfe’s book because the story was saddled with a hard-to-believe main character and got bogged down with sermons about events and situations instead of mere descriptions of them, although the situations themselves seemed “true to life”.

So, to get this all together: I guess I first read for the story. If the story fails for me, I might come away with something nevertheless – I might admire the strategies used to tell the story, I might admire the writing style, I might like the intended “meaning”, I might be impressed by the characterisation, or whatever – but I’ll never call such a novel “good”, because it succeeds only with some of its components.

Or maybe it’s better to say that if not every single component serves or combines with the other components, the result is not a good or successful novel. I can easily imagine a novel with a story that doesn’t fail for me and nevertheless I could consider this novel not successful because some other components do fail. Which is, ironically, the exact opposite of my statement above. Maybe I should better say: “Enough of fiction without good stories.”

This just shows that it’s never a good idea to judge something (fiction) just by looking at one part (is it literary fiction?) of it.


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