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Literary Fiction > Literary Fiction

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message 1: by Jervais (last edited Aug 21, 2013 02:39PM) (new)

Jervais Williams | 4 comments Does anyone read literary fiction anymore? I've been trying to find communities for it but I haven't been very successful. Any one have any suggestions about where I should look?


message 2: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendyneedsbooks) There's a GR group called Bookish, where the main focus is classics, difficult books, nonfiction and lit fic. They seem a bit intimidating from the outside, but it's the group I'm most active in (and addicted to!) here. You have to request permission to join, but if serious books interest you a lot (and vampires not so much) it's a great community.


message 3: by Lucy (new)

Lucy Barnhouse | 3 comments I don't know of online communities for literary fiction, but I do read it avidly, and would be glad to exchange recommendations here (Traveler of the Century was one of my recent discoveries.)


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan Speranza (susansperanza) | 5 comments If you do a search of Literary Fiction in books on Amazon, about 12000 or so books come up. From there they are divided into "genre" type categories such as Women's fiction, coming of age, etc.


message 5: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Don Dellilo, Philip Roth, Murakami, Jeanette Winterson, Franz Kafka, Dubravka Ugresic, Michael Faber are just some of the worthwhile authors I'd recommend you checking out if you haven't already. I also love Michelle Houllebecq but he is not to everyone's tastes.

And for authors who do daring things with structure and narrative (as I do in my work) you could check out Marck Danielewski's "House Of Leaves" and anything by Ben Marcus.


message 6: by Carl (new)

Carl I hope so as I have friends who write it!


message 7: by J. (new)

J. | 22 comments Donna Tartt's work fits here, for me. The Secret History, especially.


message 8: by Marc (last edited Dec 12, 2013 05:08AM) (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Denise wrote: "As a writer of literary fiction I was told prior to publishing that I should seek other genres to cover it. The words:"Commercial appeal" were used, another two words that evoke a set way of thinki..."

I can't help but feel that literary fiction is a dumping ground for titles that can't be pigeonholed under other genre tags.

There is no reason why genre books can't aspire to the highest literary values and language and equally none why literary books can't weave wonderful plots & stories which is often the accusation thrown back at them. I agree, genre labels play no part in my choice of reading matter.


message 9: by Jim (last edited Dec 12, 2013 04:45AM) (new)

Jim Vuksic There are many definitions of literary fiction; depending upon with whom you are discussing it at the time.

I personally think of it as actually being a genre within a genre that tends to contain very complex plots and characters with more depth compared to other genres. Those who write literary fiction usually seem more interested in attaining critical acclaim than making money.

I have an eclectic taste in books - almost any genre, with the exception of romance novels and those whose popularity is based purely upon shock value. Well written works may be found in any genre.


message 10: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Jim wrote: "There are many definitions of literary fiction; depending upon with whom you are discussing it at the time.

I personally think of it as actually being a genre within a genre that tends to contain..."


not sure what you mean by a genre within a genre? It probably has more titles than any other full genre, so volume alone possibly obviates that. It's genre books that seem particularly liable to fragment into sub-genre headings, such as urban fantasy, steampunk, paranormal fantasy, paranormal romance, the new weird, scifi, space opera, science fiction fantasy etc etc. All unnecessarily divisive and tribal I feel.


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim Vuksic Marc wrote: "Jim wrote: "There are many definitions of literary fiction; depending upon with whom you are discussing it at the time.

I personally think of it as actually being a genre within a genre that tend..."


Marc,
I probably didn't express myself clearly.
By genre within a genre, I was referring to the many readers who think primarily of the classics like 'Moby Dick', 'Last of the Mohichans', 'Tale of Two Cities' 'How Green Was My Valley', etc., etc. when they think of literary fiction.


message 12: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Denise wrote: "As a writer of literary fiction I was told prior to publishing that I should seek other genres to cover it. The words:"Commercial appeal" were used, another two words that evoke a set way of thinki..."

To me, literary fiction is its own genre, dealing with a theme or themes rather than simply telling a story and leaving it at that. It's a genre where the author has something deeper to say: something that must of necessity be more personal, however fictionalized and distant the 'vehicle' (story) might be.

I like to think of it as watching a magic show. The audience marvels at the magic, but does not need to see the hidden pulleys and ropes or how the tricks are performed. All that matters is that the reader, taken into the author's imagined world, feels a sudden emotion near the end. Or is suddenly brought to realize something from a unique and different perspective: the author's.

Literary fiction differs from other fiction in that it achieves these end results not by stating what it wants the reader to feel or to know, but by the use of literary devices - the 'hidden pulleys and levers' - such as the narrator's 'voice', the use of surrealism and unbelievability, and the careful crafting of plot to highlight a theme that is not immediately apparent. So it requires some intellectual agility on the part of the reader, much as a cryptic crossword requires some lateral thinking.

Perhaps this is why literary fiction is less popular than the so-called 'genre fiction'. Perhaps it is why traditional publishers or other advisers would tell an author to call it something other than what it really is. But I do believe that there is a place for literary fiction as I have defined it ... a place with great commercial appeal if marketed in the right way.

When publishers continue to put out 'literary' works that get generally negative reviews after publication - just because the author has produced better work previously or is well known - then they have shown either a lack of intent to structurally edit such works or indeed, to refuse them publication. The public then pays up to $45 for a hardcover version of a book which most often disappoints. It is simply disingenuous for the traditional publishing industry to say it only publishes works of the highest quality and in the same 'breath', to market books whose negative reviews should have been taken note of by the editors long before final publication, not after...

I have nothing against airport and beach reads, vampire romances set on another planet in a different time, crime/thriller and action/adventure and so on. It's great that people enjoy reading 'genre fiction'. But I would hope that people will not always see literary fiction as belonging in the 'too hard' basket. If it's dry, pointless, and self-indulgent then they most likely will. And they won't, if it's well written and of high standard, with all the pulleys and ropes well hidden and the readers' best interests at heart.

So as a self-published author of literary fiction I will continue to write, and unashamedly call my work 'literary fiction'. Because that's what it is.


message 13: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments I like and agree with what figuratio says, but there is also a branch of literary fiction where the writer absolutely shows the reader the pulleys and levers and underlines that it is fiction and asks the reader not to suspend their belief, but rather to remember it all all times/ Fiction qua fiction, or metafiction or whatever other name one wants to tag it with.


message 14: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Marc wrote: "I like and agree with what figuratio says, but there is also a branch of literary fiction where the writer absolutely shows the reader the pulleys and levers and underlines that it is fiction and a..."

Yes, that's so true. I completely forgot about metafiction! Cervantes was doing this as long ago as 1615 (Don Quixote). And I greatly enjoyed Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and Avignon Quintet; but I wonder sometimes if it doesn't detract from the story by becoming too self-indulgent on the part of the author. It's like, 'Look at me, look what I can do', rather than putting the reader first. Any thoughts?


message 15: by Marc (last edited Dec 21, 2013 03:21PM) (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments figuratio wrote: "Marc wrote: "I like and agree with what figuratio says, but there is also a branch of literary fiction where the writer absolutely shows the reader the pulleys and levers and underlines that it is ..."

not if it's done properly! It tends to be what I write and it always starts with language, how it obfuscates meaning as much as expresses it. And you can still prompt emotional responses in the reader. I think the problem is when it'\s done as a dry academic or intellectual exercise, when it has no real soul


message 16: by Christoph (new)

Christoph Fischer | 40 comments Dianne wrote: "I think it's being read constantly but is masked by the "genre" game. It doesn't have quite the catchy, sexy title that so many other do. Also think a lot of people are simply looking for a "quick ..."

I find it can also sound very pretentious. What would be a good find now comes with expectations of a certain quality, high brow and elitist claim. Many use the term as a 'class' rather then genre, I found. You are right, Diane, it does not sound sexy. I am currently writing about a dysnfunctional family with Alzheimers but I dare not put the label Literary on it. The critics might kill it for not being too elite enough and it might deter readers because of a high brow ring to it.


message 17: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments I wrote a highly literary 250 story about Alzheimer's in which language itself mutated as words slipped from the grasp of the stricken brain.

Don't worry about the critics and the labels, just write the book yuo want to write and then figure out what to do with it and let it stand or fall on its merits as a book, literary or otherwise


message 18: by Christoph (new)

Christoph Fischer | 40 comments Thanks Marc!


message 19: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Marc wrote: "I wrote a highly literary 250 story about Alzheimer's in which language itself mutated as words slipped from the grasp of the stricken brain.

Don't worry about the critics and the labels, just wr..."


That's such great advice; it's exactly what I feel!


message 20: by Sam (new)

Sam Jenkin (UKPoetryLive) | 3 comments Jason wrote: "I read that literary fiction is not very popular. Is it true and why? I am not a big brain but I'm not scared of the word 'literary'..."

I'd say that it has more obstacles on the way to being 'purchased' than other novels, it's a steeper mountain to climb, the fact that readers are maybe on average more experienced also makes them more selective. However, once the mountain has been climbed, literary fiction novels have a much longer shelf life than 'disposable' books.


message 21: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (brandiec) This may not be the best thread for this post, but I just finished a wonderful piece of literary fiction, dealing a number of huge themes inclding child abuse, mental illness, and privacy in a surveillance state: Fallen Land, by Patrick Flanery. I highly recommend it, particularly to anyone who appreciated Andre Dubus's House of Sand and Fog.


message 22: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Martin wrote: "Jervais wrote: "Does anyone read literary fiction anymore? I've been trying to find communities for it but I haven't been very successful. Any one have any suggestions about where I should look?"

..."


I don't know about literary 'extinction'.

As long as there are people, there will be story-telling, because we all have a need to communicate with others. Stories are one way to do that. And there will always be people who wish to read narrative that gives a hint of something deeper - something about the author's unique view of the world - beyond what appears on the surface. Otherwise they might just as well read the newspaper (online).

The problems have been the commercialization - the monetizing - of books, which promotes poor novels at the expense of better ones, simply because the authors of the first have 'name brands' and there is no further requirement to produce excellent work: they get published anyway, by a system that cynically judges that the buying public can be duped. After all, you can't return a bad book to get your money back. And so we perceive that people don't like literary fiction. They would, if better fiction was on offer.

And literary academia, with its own obtuse vocabulary of literary criticism, and skewed idea of excellence ('qualifications' to write, such as MFA or PhD, as a precondition of being published, at least in Australia) don't help either. What results is often unimaginative writing that masquerades as literary fiction, but is in fact historical fiction with a ready-made storyline, romanticized and reinterpreted with modern 'values'. Or else it's contemporary fiction that wades in the shallows, being unable to explore a theme in any depth, but looking pretty nevertheless. One could argue that it is philosophy, not literary fiction, that is facing extinction.

But I am optimistic that things will improve. It's just that firstly, they have to get worse!


message 23: by A (new)

A Whole | 11 comments figuratio wrote: "Martin wrote: "Jervais wrote: "Does anyone read literary fiction anymore? I've been trying to find communities for it but I haven't been very successful. Any one have any suggestions about where I ..."

I totally agree with your view on the monetization of books. First of all, it has created books that stick to a format and a lot of those I call 'leech authors' who really could not care less about books and literature and just want to make money.

I feel sorry for writers who really want to create something new: they must be facing a lot of problems with the fact that they can't say 'my book is in this box, go and get it you silly reader'.

I read some 'bumf' sometimes myself, but it's a matter of quantity.


message 24: by Marc (last edited Mar 24, 2014 06:06AM) (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments The reader is always right. Millions of readers haven't been 'duped' into buying 50 Shades. There's lots of worrying aspects to it, such as how millions of readers can share exactly the same erotic and fantasy tastes as that or any mass selling erotica book lays out, but I would never criticise them for their choice of reading. Have I read it, no. Would I, no. But it has a perfect right to exist and do so well in the market IF THAT'S WHAT READERS DECIDE.

I'm a literary fiction writer but I won't have any moaning about our lot. The market is the market and we just have to get on and deal with it. If you really think it's that easy to write a 50 Shades best seller, go ahead and write one. Under a pseudonym and when it makes you a mint, use that money to return to writing litfic full-time. Doesn't quite work that way right?

Don't be criticising readers for their tastes and don't bemoan your lot as a writer. Just strive to write better more engaging books and prove everyone else wrong about litfic.


message 25: by Marc (last edited Mar 24, 2014 08:13AM) (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments The media barely promote literature. You don't see books on TV other than occasionally on an arts review programme that has 1 slot a week to cover all art forms (I'm talking about the UK here). Yes there are a few critical journals that are devoted to books, but they are not read by the mass market of readers.

The people responsible for pushing books and promoting them are the publishing houses' own marketing & sales teams. And they hold sway over bookshops with their discounts and deals to secure their books space in the window, by the counter or in other prominent display areas. Now those sales and marketing teams have moved away from litifc and towards best sellers as that is what publishers deem to require to save their endangered balance sheets. No longer do commissioning editors hold sway in choosing titles, now it's the sales teams who judge whether they can shift mass units of a title or not. This is the change process that has brought an end to the unrealistic model that publishers used to operate by, when they could afford large advances and loss leading titles as they tried to develop a new author's career over the course of 5 titles, something that rarely happens now. This was happening irrespective of the boom in self-publishing that also swept away the cultural gatekeepers of literary taste as anyone now can publish whatever they want. Now we can criticise the fact that the market has replaced the gatekeeper as the arbiter of taste, but publishers were slow to respond to the twin threats of their own outdated economic models and the digital/self-publishing age. You may as well criticise capitalism itself as the market. For books to be read they need to be produced & distributed to the audience and digital platforms makes this easy & cheap and in doing so inevitably distorts & warps the market from what it once was. I'm not asking anyone to celebrate this fact, but it ought to be recognised and reacted to accordingly.

I am no lover of markets (or capitalism for that matter), but to compare it with totalitarianism strikes me as wrong. Totalitarianism as its name implies, controls all society. You can never control all of a mass market. You can certainly distort, warp and tilt a market, but you cannot own it. 50 Shades may or may not have manipulated the market expertly, but other books were still sold in their millions at the same time. So if it did manipulate, it only manipulated a part of it. I think word of mouth and wanting to see what all the fuss was about probably sustained its cynosure, in the same way as the fuss over the banning of Lady Chatterley's Lover meant everyone at the time went out and bought the book.

As to how many people have read 50 Shades and then reported back that they hated it or felt cheated, I would like to know what that percentage is. When Harry Potter first came out, I saw adults everywhere reading what is essentially a children's book. I suspected that they were not normally readers at all but had jumped on the bandwagon (or had read it to their kids & decided to stay with it for themselves) and I always wondered what percentage of them progressed on to other books besides HP. I have no idea, no figures, but I bet it was quite small. But we just don't know.

Re your Jane Austen point, Van Gogh sold 1 painting in his lifetime, but he was driven to still create and produced a body of work that is today worth multi-millions. Did him no good as he didn't see any of the cash. There is no obligation for artists to be paid for their work in their lifetime. Of course it makes life easier for them if they are, but that shouldn't be the determinant of whether they carry on to produce a body of work or not. Will 50 Shades be read in the 21st Century? I severely doubt it. I can only hope that mine, unrewarded as it currently is in material terms, will be. That is the only evaluation of art, not any market. There is literature as art and literature as commerce. And rarely do the twain meet in the same title.


message 26: by Richard (new)

Richard Sharp (RichardSharp) | 10 comments Many good points above, though I think the nub of it is simply that to most people, "literary" means "serious" and readers tend to want "entertainment" not "serious." A literary novel needs a good break in major review outlets, support from a traditional publisher, and/or the writer needs to build a strong reputation over several literary novels to develop a decent following.

My Indie literary novel of the pre-boomer generation, The Duke Don't Dance, obtained strong reviews and several Indie awards, but its early sales were low, though it does continue to sell two years later. My recently released saga of the Sixties,Crystal Shipsis off to a similar start, but seems to have revived interest in my other novels as well as being well-received itself. It is true, however, that patience is a necessary virtue for the literary fiction author.


message 27: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments I don't accept that literary novels ought not to also entertain. Literary fiction fans can derive the entertainment from language, voice, imagery as much as plot or character, so if anything the litfic writer has more tools in their palette for providing entertainment. Equally, I don't see why genre/entertainment authors don't pay attention to values of language and imagery.


message 28: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Marc wrote: "I don't accept that literary novels ought not to also entertain. Literary fiction fans can derive the entertainment from language, voice, imagery as much as plot or character, so if anything the li..."

Genre/entertainment authors don't have to pay attention to values of language and imagery (or any values at all, come to think of it) if their books sell, and if readers - fully aware they are not being duped - read them. The reader is always right, and the bottom line is that a book must be good if it sells, and even better if it sells like 'Fifty Shades' (which was published in the 21st century, so is still being read).
Care should be taken to never adversely criticize any book. Such practice might be misinterpreted as being a criticism of the book's readers.
And if talented authors dare to bemoan their lot by criticizing the book industry, let them be silenced by the millions of readers who are happy with mediocrity.


message 29: by Richard (new)

Richard Sharp (RichardSharp) | 10 comments Marc --

Not much disagreement between us. Literary fiction can and does entertain -- to a receptive readership -- but the reputation of literary fiction being too serious or too aceademic to be entertaining extends beyond the reality. It's just a fact of life.

I write, in part, to be thought-provoking, but I'm not critical of genres that seek to be pure entertainment or have a different readersfip base. The writing groups I attend represent most genres, with some quality writing. A writer should not be immune from criticism, however, either from critique groups or public reviews. As long as one is criticizing the specific writer and specific work, not the genre, readers should not be offended. Even if they are, at least they are better informed.

I totally agree with you about the futility of whining about the book industry.


message 30: by Marc (last edited Mar 25, 2014 05:37AM) (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Damian, I hear what you say about the maths, but just because there are many posted hostile comments, does not necessarily mean they are representative of the overall body of feeling. The disgruntled tend to speak up louder than the contented. Gosh look at me defending the almost certainly literaryily indefensible!

In France where they still honour and venerate their artists in society, where authors used to serve in government or petitions signed by JPS, SdeB and AC carried clout and changed policy, they have arts and cultural programmes on every night on TV. But then they have a different value on arts & culture to us in Britain. (And the Academie Francaise which fights to defend French letters and language is besieged by the importation of global art forms such as US hip-hop and rap).

I have no love for the media. I have never taken a daily newspaper in my life. But the UK does not honour or value its artists, preferring the cult of celebrity or the shock artist like a Damian Hirst. I think you're appealing to or possibly for a bygone world. I don't think the clocks can be turned back.


message 31: by Judith (new)

Judith Gash (Balafre) (goodreadscomjudithbalafre) | 14 comments A couple of good current literary writers I love are Elizabeth Kostova and Donna Tartt.


message 32: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Judith wrote: "A couple of good current literary writers I love are Elizabeth Kostova and Donna Tartt."

They do exist, but you have to work a bit to hear of them.

I like Ben Marcus, Don Delillo, Jonathan Lethem, Jeanette Winterson, Dubravka Ugresic


message 33: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Damian wrote: "figuratio wrote: "Marc wrote: "I don't accept that literary novels ought not to also entertain. Literary fiction fans can derive the entertainment from language, voice, imagery as much as plot or c..."

"The reader is always right" was intended as a sarcasm, as was the whole of this comment of mine :)

Except perhaps, the last sentence (about authors being silenced for bemoaning their lot by criticizing the book industry).

But authors, being readers themselves, have every right to point out problems they perceive in the book industry, especially when the discussion centers around the possible "extinction" (or at least unpopularity) of literary fiction, and when deficiencies in the publishing world give readers less than what they otherwise could get. How many mainstream, professional reviews have there been, about some books, where the majority of reviews have been largely negative, or at least have highlighted significant deficiencies in them? Quite a few: I know from personal experience. So why weren't these problems picked up and corrected by the editors before publication, rather than after the books were published? This is one of the things I meant in my previous post, but perhaps didn't enlarge upon sufficiently.

Readers are not a homogeneous group. Tastes vary widely depending on age, sex, social status, education and intelligence. If we say "the reader is always right" then any discussion of a book's merit is valueless because it can be said that somewhere, somehow, there must be a reader to like it, so if a reviewer doesn't like the book, he or she must be wrong. Must all discussion of a book's worth then be avoided? I think not.

It is not criticizing someone's choice of reading to express one's opinion of a book's worth. Having read "Fifty Shades of Grey" myself (but not the other two in the trilogy) I would have to say that while the premise was fascinating, the execution was dismal. So much more could have been done in developing the characters, and there are major flaws in narrative technique that the editor should have picked up on. I got the impression the book was hastily rushed out and a minimum of editing done. But books sell not just because they're good, but because they're atrocious (and everyone wants to see for themselves just how bad), because they're prurient, or because they're placed in a pyramid that you have to walk around to get into the supermarket.

Meanwhile, more deserving books (in my opinion, and I am a reader too!) are not given the same advertising support by traditional publishing, and so fail to gain wider readership.

The result of this is that while there is a near-infinity of books "out there", the general standard is falling. Who will be the Dickens, the Austen, the Joyce of the 21st century? Occasionally, one "makes it", like Ishiguro's "The Remains of the Day". But how many other literary gems are there out there, to never properly see the light of day?

People can only read what they are "given" by writers. And if most of that is mediocre, does that same mediocrity become the new standard of literary excellence, because the gems are largely undiscovered?

I fear it has already happened.


message 34: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Joyce is not read by a mass of readers (outside of Portrait Of The Artist...). It is held to be a literary great (rightly I think) by the academics, critics and cultural gatekeepers. All of that has broken down in the deluge of self-publishing. Is their demise or downgrading a good or a bad thing? I'm not sure.

The 21st century equivalents are out there and are being written. Whether they will be picked up and recognised is a different thing.

BTW I think you were right about the rush job of publishing 50 Shades as I think it had already been self-published and had picked up an audience.


message 35: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Damian wrote: "Marc wrote: "Damian, I hear what you say about the maths, but just because there are many posted hostile comments, does not necessarily mean they are representative of the overall body of feeling. ..."

I don't quite understand how you managed to conceive me as saying Joyce & Austen are literarily indefensible. I was referring to 50 Shades.

My writing if anything tilts it hat in the direction of the literary modernists like Beckett, Joyce et al. But all that taking of the fictional form in new directions has completely died out. Much to my chagrin, the market has spoken there...


message 36: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments As I said, you can criticise the market, criticise capitalism (and I do both in various of my books) and while you can certainly work to change it, it is what it is in its operational guise. It does cast its stamp on taste, whichever groups feed into that mechanism.

Joyce/Austen didn't sell much in their lifetimes, but they do alright now and sell. Austen was on my A-Level syllabus, so her books were bought one for each student in the class. You can't get away from markets, whatever your moral position on it. And yes their texts were probably initially preserved by cultural gatekeepers until they were deemed worthy of reading by a wider audience than in their own lifetimes. So the market didn't speak while they were alive, but it is speaking for them now.

My books don't sell. If virtually no one is reading them, then it doesn't matter how good the words are inside the closed covers. Books have to reach readers, the have to connect & communicate, so part of that is how they are distributed & marketed.

I suppose the difference is between a moral righteousness and a thing as it is, which is all I am claiming for the market. I certainly ascribe not a single jot of righteousness to it whatsoever. But as a writer, I still seek to operate within it and that means taking on certain of its parameters and dictats.


message 37: by Adriano (last edited Mar 26, 2014 08:39AM) (new)

Adriano Bulla (adriano_bulla) | 44 comments I have been reading this thread for a week and gagging to take part, but couldn't for ethical reasons.

Yes, both Pride and Prejudice and Ulysses sold 1,500 copies (Damian, that was, however, only the first editions, sorry for being anal). Yes, Modernism won the argument on points, not by sales, and now anyone who disregards the great lessons of Modernism is basically 'Victorian' in terms of writing age. We owe Jane Austen the realist novel, which, I would dare to suggest, is the single greatest achievement by any individual novel in literary History in terms of influence. There is also no doubt that Northanger Abbey was written as a spoof of the market, and the Mother of the Novel clearly states that the contemporary audience was 'badly influenced' by the mainstream novels of the time and easily duped.

This seems to make a point to me: it is the avant garde which remains influential and changes the market through sheer experimentation and through autonomy from the market. The market, however, knows quite well that the avant garde is necessary for its own survival, as the 'powers that be' know quite well that there needs to be creativity to create novel (pardon the pun) novels, as overeliance on tested and commercially safe formats creates stagnation, and readers do get bored after a while, thus, the publishing industry need the avant garde to avoid their worst fear: that when the readers move on, they would be left having put all their eggs in one basket and having to throw away the whole basket, which is tantamount to total collapse.

The fact that part of the media, especially the gutter press, simply jump onto the bandwagon of what makes them sell papers and create spirals of hysteria mainly for their interest and have shown total disregard for anything apart from the interests of their lords and owners has been documented extensively. That is why, oddly enough, there is an alternative tendency coming from the Internet, with papers that are independent from the big oligarchs who rule the media world and seem to be on the side of those more traditional papers that have kept their moral integrity, often suffering from huge drops in sales in recent years as a consequence ( both The Times and The Guardian in the UK are an example) and promote culture rather than having the interests of plutocrats at heart.

This is to say that whenever things seem to be going towards a direction in the extreme, which seems to me to be the core of the argument here, as no one is advocating that only literary fiction should be published, but that there should be more attention towards and promotion of, as it serves a vital role in the very life and development of literature (but here I add, of the book market as well), we need to remember that to every action there is a counter reaction...

I do not envisage an end of literary fiction, on the contrary, I think we will see a revival. True though it is that the explosion of self-publishing may have found the publishing industry, the media and the readers (yes, the readers) unprepared, and that the earliest reaction has come from sensationalist media, as sensationalism thrives on 'seizing the moment', thus they were better equipped to deal with it, as an insider, I have seen the publishing world restructuring itself in creative ways to respond: it will take longer, and at this stage, we are still in a rather chaotic situation, because restructuring a whole industry will require much more time than simply jumping onto the most recent bandwagon, but it is happening at this very moment. And it is happening while promoting books that have great literary value, despite funds having been decimated, and this deserves an applause. I have seen companies collapse, more specifically, I have seen a publisher collapse just as they were about to publish one of my texts years ago... As to the readers, of course there are now new fora for them to find out what is going on... Look around you... Goodreads is becoming a phoenomenon in terms of 'media' and it certainly provides a great platform and source of information for readers, so, I would say, readers are 'equipping themselves' and, though I hardly dare disagree with Austen when commenting on her contemporary market, I believe that readers who have felt duped, by, for example, that paper and e-product mentioned above that starts with a number and follows with suggestion to its very unimaginative palette, are now 'equipping themselves' and forming their opinions more independently from the 'controlled media' than before.

This is by no mean to say that the market is always right, I totally agree with Damian on this point. What I mean is that the market can be scolded, castigated and reformed. The market is not a living thing; we are.


message 38: by Adriano (new)

Adriano Bulla (adriano_bulla) | 44 comments Dianne wrote: "Very well written. Thank you! I'll probably get tomatoes thrown at me when I write this, but in my mind "literary fiction" is the cream at the top of writing and is the big tent of literature."

Dianne, we'll have to share a big tomato salad together here, as I totally agree.


message 39: by Adriano (new)

Adriano Bulla (adriano_bulla) | 44 comments How did 'mean' become Dan with autocorrect? Changed it.


message 40: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments To Adriano - what avant garde in the present age? I don't see much and believe me I scour hard as I write formalistic experimental pieces that look to move the narrative form in different directions. It feels very lonely out here I can tell you!

I think the avant garde may once have helped nip and tuck the market or cultural taste, but the market is a cunning beast and absorbed and defanged them and commercialised it. Punk rock being one example, it died the day each of the major record labels signed up their own 'house' punk band. In publishing, no longer do authors get the luxury and the freedom to develop their ouvre over the course of a 4 or 5 book deal, and publishers are less prepared to indulge the more experimental work as loss leaders when the balance sheet is all. So hope resides in the margins, the self-published who do their own thing irrespective of any industry dictats. Except then they face the problems of being invisible. One way the y can draw attention to themselves is to shock and subvert, but then it becomes about that and not any text they might have started out trying to promote. It's what Malcolm McLaren ended up doing to punk, the stunts became the story rather than the music.


message 41: by Adriano (new)

Adriano Bulla (adriano_bulla) | 44 comments Marc wrote: "To Adriano - what avant garde in the present age? I don't see much and believe me I scour hard as I write formalistic experimental pieces that look to move the narrative form in different direction..."

Hello Marc,

Well, there are two of us talking here who are experimental, so, Goodreads may be a very good place to start talking... I personally have been lucky with finding publishers. I do see your point about developing authors over the years; that, for the time being, is unfeasable. Publishers simply cannot afford long-term investments of that kind. This is a 'luxury' now. This does not mean they would not like to, on the contrary, I believe most of them would wish to be able to have long-term projects, as most companies with any sense should. Yet, we are in 'survival mode' at the moment in terms of publishing.

However, History teaches us that change tends to come from unexpected places... Writers (forgive me, I sort of have a problem with the word 'author') need for sure to respond to the market, but the response does not need to be submission. I think you may see a little contribution of mine inspired by the discussion in this forum soon. I can't say much at this stage, so bear with me, please.


message 42: by Richard (new)

Richard Sharp (RichardSharp) | 10 comments We seem to be personifying the market excessively here. The market has no human preferences as an entity and, in fact, one might well argue there is no market for fiction as a whole, no more than there is a market for books in general or for "things people write."

At very least, however, it is clear that any fiction "market" is highly segmented. Moreover, that's also true for "literary fiction" as a category.How much of a common readership is there really among Hemmingway, Joyce, Faulkner, Kerouac, Martel, Salinger, Nabokov, Brontë, Morrison, Vonnegut and Tan?

Oh, sure, some -- but it's not overwhelming. The writer has his or her idea of what's a target market and how big it has to be to be satisfying. For some "literary fiction" authors, that market is narrowly defined and the expected sales are low.If you want to write like Joyce and have the sales of Stephen King, you're likely to be disppointed.

The market is not out to get you -- you're out to get a market The reader's current tastes pose constraints. Nothing much you can do about that other than to break through based on the brilliance of your work or latch onto some trend that does not compromise the integrity of the work so much that it is no longer "literary." And your expectations need to be somewhat realistic.


message 43: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Richard wrote: "We seem to be personifying the market excessively here. The market has no human preferences as an entity and, in fact, one might well argue there is no market for fiction as a whole, no more than t..."

what is the market other than the mass of readers in this case? No one says the market is out to get you, I have banged the drum for writers dealing with the realities of the market, issues of visibility, promotion all the stuff to make potential readers aware you exit and that you have books they may like to read. The market is what the market is. respect to those who credit they can buck it or subvert it, but personally I would like to subvert fiction and narrative form than the market itself.

"How much of a common readership is there really among Hemmingway, Joyce, Faulkner, Kerouac, Martel, Salinger, Nabokov, Brontë, Morrison, Vonnegut and Tan? " The point is that all these writers writing pre 21st century were just writing 'fiction'. Not literary fiction, Burroughs wasn't writing SciFi, Austen wasn't writing chicklit. Litfic to me seems the category when a book doesn't obviously pigeonhole itself in one of the established genres. yYes there may be protestations about how litfic has higher values of language and imagery, but quite honestly there is no reason why a genre book couldn't aspire to that - Lem in scifi, some of Mieville's work in fantasy or scifi too. We are all just writing fiction, except those who are writing non-fiction of course. Do we need any other divisions than this? The industry says that we do.

For what it's worth, I blogged only yesterday on how the publishing world needs to avoid the fate of the music industry which also fragmented its work into ever diminishing genre definitions and suffered for doing so.

http://sulcicollective.blogspot.co.uk...


message 44: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments Adriano wrote: "Marc wrote: "To Adriano - what avant garde in the present age? I don't see much and believe me I scour hard as I write formalistic experimental pieces that look to move the narrative form in differ..."

Comrade! :-)

Look forward to your work


message 45: by Adriano (last edited Mar 26, 2014 01:24PM) (new)

Adriano Bulla (adriano_bulla) | 44 comments Marc wrote: "Richard wrote: "We seem to be personifying the market excessively here. The market has no human preferences as an entity and, in fact, one might well argue there is no market for fiction as a whole..."

At the risk of going slightly off topic, but to continue in the parallel with the music industry, we cannot deny that we have not had majorly famous lasting musical acts since the 80s. After that, the 'shelf life' of the average (and even of the longer) lasting bands and singers has shrunk so dramatically that if one is mentioned in the papers two consecutive weeks one can reasonably be called a veteran nowadays...


message 46: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 115 comments very true. There are other factors involved, not least the shrinking of the number of record labels (compare similar with publishing houses) as they merge into giants. The DIY bands distributing their music digitally from their bedrooms are struggling to make any money by that model and have to play gigs and sell merchandising to supplement income from record sales.


message 47: by Richard (last edited Mar 26, 2014 05:30PM) (new)

Richard Sharp (RichardSharp) | 10 comments Adriano and Marc, I think you are both onto something in the comparison with the music industry. My son has been in the music business for many years (Weezer, The Rentals and other gigs) and the profile of that industry has changed much like that of fiction. The critical changes in both cases are both supply side (new technology and much greater ease of producing output)and demand side (the market or markets).

Like my son, I am more inclined to attribute the changes more to the supply side rather than to a massive change in musical or literary tastes (after all, the Stones, etc. still have a much bigger fan base than most contemporary artists, and Jane Austen still draws far more readers than 99% of Indie novels).

Changes on the supply side make the economics of developing and promoting both lasting musical groups and quality literary fiction much more difficult.It is increasingly hard for managers or literary agents to make a living off 15% commissions or for quality musical or book editors to make a living wage. Much of this is because of the massive increase in output made possible by digital technology. Sure, it offers new opportunities for talented musicians or literary fiction to make a breakthrough, but it also generates tons of crap (in all genres, including would-be literary novels). Traditional publishers and recording studios must cut costs to compete with the good, the bad and the ugly on the market at low prices; are deprived of "cash cows" that can help sustain niche market segments; industry consolidaitons further reduce outlets, etc.

Have both industries made some bad strategic calls? Of course. That compounds the supply side problem. I think, however, that those missteps are more technology-driven than market driven. Steam punk and dinosaur porn would not be out there as genres if they weren't so easy to produce! (At least I hope not.)


message 48: by figuratio (new)

figuratio Dianne wrote: "Very well written. Thank you! I'll probably get tomatoes thrown at me when I write this, but in my mind "literary fiction" is the cream at the top of writing and is the big tent of literature."

You're safe Dianne, at least from me! I'll reserve my tomatoes for the chefs who serve cream that has gone off.


message 49: by Adriano (new)

Adriano Bulla (adriano_bulla) | 44 comments Then it would be good to have a place where readers can find a comprehensive list and information, does anybody know one?


message 50: by Judith (new)

Judith Gash (Balafre) (goodreadscomjudithbalafre) | 14 comments Do you consider Tom Wolfe (not Thomas Wolfe) a contemporary literary writer? I think I do and I like him.


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