Maybe Genres Should be Good, Better, Best?

Plenty of literary books are unreadable. Plenty of genre books are unthoughtful. So how do you distinguish the pearls of any theme from the hack work? You argue.

My fear – no, make that prediction – is that literary fiction will be increasingly marginalized as general interest publications focus on “books people actually read.”

J. Peder Zane is exaggerating on what people read, but it does hit close to the mark, doesn’t it? If few people want to read what we call literary fiction, why shouldn’t it be marginalized? If all the really good writing is actually in literary fiction, then it won’t suffer in the long-run and may suffer in the short-run if we continue teach our children not to value good writing.

8 thoughts on “Maybe Genres Should be Good, Better, Best?”

  1. People will always choose the path of least resistance. However, this may also be the broad way that leads to destruction–or at least ignorance.

    If we read only those works that appeal to us on the surface, then we’re shallow people. If not for people challenging my reading habits, I would not have discovered better works. Do I read them as often as the popular works? No. But I read them nonetheless and am better for having done so.

  2. One last comment:

    My brother, a gifted writer, enrolled in a respected MFA program. However, when the profs who ran the department found out he intended to write science fiction for a living, they dropped him from the program. Their rationale? Science fiction isn’t literary.

    Snobbery exists everywhere.

  3. The best thing anyone can do to teach their children to value good writing is to give them well-written books that tell actual *stories*.

    If literary fiction consists primarily of elegantly written twaddle about academics and baby boomers having midlife crises, it deserves to die. If it condescends to be about things that actually interest people-love stories, ghost stories, murder mysteries, life on other planet, pirates, cowboys, and ninjas and other (pseudo?)historical figures-it will survive.

    Without content, style is as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

  4. I wonder how DLE’s brother’s application would have gone if he had said he would would be, say, writing fantasy stories about elves, orcs, etc.?

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