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Thursday, May 30, 2013

ArmchairBEA: Literary Fiction



Literary fiction: what a loaded term! Oh, boy! What does that even mean? Literary fiction seems to be one of those bookish terms that is quite nebulous.

It's kind of like this.
In looking up the definition on handy, dandy Wikipedia, it states that literary fiction must be "serious" and have critical acclaim. Oh, genre fiction is not supposed to count.


Who gets to decide what's serious? Critical acclaim is at least a little more tangible but what critical acclaim counts. Do you have to win an award? Do certain critics have to love the book and appreciate its amazingness? But genre fiction doesn't count? What??? So yesterday, I was talking about my favorite genre, historical fiction. Now some of the books are pretty serious and I see them as fitting into the literary fiction realm but according to definition, they don't get to count.


It's just kind of crazy to me that you would leave books out because of their genre. Certainly there are some genres that are not prone to serious-ness or critical claim but there are genre books out there that are fantastically literary. What about them?

Anyhow, can you all tell that I have an issue with this book designation?



What say you?

20 comments:

  1. I definitely agree that the meaning is nebulous...and open to interpretation. One of my examples today definitely fits the mold, but it also fits within a YA sub-genre. And I think historical could fit nicely within the literary fiction genre if it meets all the other criteria...

    Here's MY ARMCHAIR BEA POST

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  2. First of all, your gifs continue to crack me up.
    Yeah, some of my picks probably wouldn't be considered high brow either, but who cares! It's about bringing our favorite stories to other readers.

    http://mwgerard.com/armchair-bea-literature-literary-fiction/

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  3. Heh, yeah the distinction can be pretty arbitrary. I look at it as more of a question of what the driving force behind the novel is. If it's more plot-driven, then I think genre, if it's more driven by the writing or character development (for example), then I think literary. But there's SO much crossover and a lot of it comes down to marketing. And yes, it can seem very snobbish.

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  4. I agree completely! And your GIFs make me happy. :)

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  5. I love your pics :-) I agree with you, I have read some books that don't have a lot of literary recognition but I thought were certainly profound and definitely were acclaimed by the readers.

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  6. Out of any genre, I feel like some historical fiction would "count" as literary fiction. I think it has a lot to do with the writing style and I guess the content? To be honest I mostly stay away from anything labelled "literary" because to me those are the people looking their noses down at all the genres and especially at romance. I also tend to like more lighthearted books, or at least ones that I feel are relatable, and most "literary fiction" doesn't really seem that way to me.

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  7. i have an issue with these kinds of classifications too. some of the best books ever written have been those which have crossed genres. Love the humour on your site and am very envious you get to live in one of my favourite US cites.....

    karen@bookertalk.com

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  8. Book genres are always easy to get mixed up and confused about. I personally feel that literay fiction can be from any genre as long as it's mostly character driven instead of plot driven.
    I love the Voldemort gif, lol.

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    1. Ah, that's a good way to look at it. If that's true, I'd totally say I read lit fic more often than I thought. :)

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  9. Yeah, I avoided this topic today mostly because I didn't even know what to consider "literary." It's vague and I definitely don't read many Pulitzer winners or other prestigious award winners.

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  10. I think Wiki does a good job of explaining what literary fiction is - if you read the entire description and not just the initial sentences. It's often referred to as "high brow" and then you have "low brow". It's like comparing pop music and classical music - the composition is different.

    Perhaps I'm seeing this from a different point of view since I'm studying literary science, where such a distinction is necessary, which it may not be when you're approaching literature for purely entertainment purposes.

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  11. I think it's like pornography. You know it when you see it. But the boundaries are quite blurry too.

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  12. I have an issue with it too...many books I see labelled as lit fic on Goodreads are also labelled historical fiction (for example) and I read tins if historical fiction, but felt wrong including that? But then? Ah, as you can see I had prob,Ems with this post on my blog too, lol.

    Dee @ Dee's Reads

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  13. I'm actually finding the definitions and examples people are listing today very interesting because you're right, this is not an easily definable subject. I think there is definitely some genre-crossing, much like "classic" titles are from all sorts of genres. I like Barbara Bartels take on it :)

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  14. I totally and completely agree with this post. Whenever I get to upset I remind myself that genres are mainly tools to help book-sellers categorize books. There can and should be lots of grey areas and overlap :)

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  15. I've always been confused over the "literary fiction" label. *shrugs*

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  16. one blogger today said it was a book that would eventually become a classic! I kind of like that definition, it can definitely work to my 10

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  17. It is difficult to define, but I've enjoyed reading all the posts talking about it today!

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  18. I'm with you, I had a really hard time and still am struggling with what books fit the literary fiction title.

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  19. I think most books overlap into different areas. I've read books that can easily be classified as both historical fiction and literary fiction. Some of the newer suspense-writers are focusing more on character and I would term their books as Literary Suspense. In the end, it doesn't really matter how we classify a book as long as we are enjoying it! I say, read whatever you want and classify your fiction however you like!

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Hi! Welcome to A Bookish Affair. If you leave a comment, I will try to either reply here or on your site!

As of 6/6/2011, this book is now an awards free zone. While I appreciate the awards, I would rather stick to reviewing more great books for you than trying to fill the requirements.

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