Definitions of the various labels used by publishers and authors with their work, along with their readers, have always been up for discussion. I remember one ‘argument’ I had with someone who told me unequivocally that if there were any magical elements in the book with realistic scenery, but the author was not Latin, he should not be called a magical realism novel. I’m afraid that maybe that was the origin of the genre, I still do not agree that a book by a non-Latin writer can not be magical realism. Still, I will not use this label in those cases, so as not to offend. Things like this are always in my head, so now it’s time to wonder …
These are mine Personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to agree with anything here, and in fact, I am sure many will disagree and / or even hate many of the things I have written below. Sorry about that, but you are always welcome to express your views – whether they are conflicting or comparable – in the comments section. So, with that out of the way … let the controversy begin!
What made me think about this issue?
Recently, my friend Rose Morris posted an article on her blog called “Can we reclaim the term ‘literary fiction’? Conversation with Imogen Clark.“I would suggest you jump in and take a look at it, because it was fascinating, and it was the inspiration for this post.
I consider myself a reader of almost exclusively literary fiction and I do not see it as an insult, and in fact it is very contained in that it can be both contemporary and historical. Look, I believe these two refinements are definitions and not genres. On the other hand, although futuristic novels take place in the future, almost all novels that take place in the future are either fantasy or science fiction. If there are futuristic novels that are none of these (and I hope someone can point me in the direction of one of these), then I guess they can be literary as well.
As Roz mentioned in one of her podcasts “One of the definitions of a literary fiction book is that it can go where it pleases without having to hit any expected tropics“It clearly means that mystery, romance, fantasy, science fiction and the like, rely heavily on those familiar tropics to be included in a particular genre. Not the essence of those literary works. By that I mean that if there is murder in the story, we will not spend the whole book trying to solve the crime; if there is a romantic interest in a literary work, we may not find out if the couple lives happily ever after. The journey of the heroes is what is at the center of the story.
It is clear that even with regard to age groups one can wonder. That is, an adult, a new adult, a young adult, etc. Well, it seems to me that again, all of these can be literary or fictional genres. So the idea that literary fiction is always high and difficult to read is, if you ask me, completely inaccurate. If a children’s book is literary fiction, it is simply written at the level of vocabulary and language sophistication that a younger person is able to understand. So, no, even in literary fiction there is nothing snobby.
In the end, it seems to me that we should not put negative connotations on a book marked as literary fiction, any more than we should have put negative connotations on genre literature. So I think the answer to Rose’s question is yes, we can really re-demand the term, and I think most definitions can be applied. This Being, a story that does not follow the tropics of a specific genre, centered around realistic, human issues and how the characters react / deal with them. I think it’s pretty respectable, and no one should be ashamed to say he reads it or writes it, if you ask me.
So … here you go!
This post is my 13th entry in the 2021 Debate Challenge, hosted Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Adiction and Shannon @ It starts at midnight!