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what is the difference between literary and non literary fiction? AIBU to not want to read literary novels

(30 Posts)
Sleepyhead11 Sat 23-Mar-19 11:39:16

Just wondered what these terms mean. I tried Googling and lots of different answers, but the term literary fiction rings kind of false to me - like it's muesli fiction, fiction that's good for you, whileas the books I enjoy aren't. I don't know. I do like some literary fiction I guess, it just feels like an odd divide and as though there is something standoffish there, iyswim.

isseywithcats Sat 23-Mar-19 11:47:29

im presuming literary fiction would be totally made up characters and non would be historical figures like henry 8ths wives put into a novel and wrietten about as a fictional character as the author would not be able to catalogue every thing said and done on a day to day basis as you cant time travel back and be there i like all sorts of books

hackmum Sat 23-Mar-19 11:51:25

Literary fiction is stuff that isn’t genre - ie it’s not fantasy or science fiction or chick lit or romance or crime. So anything that doesn’t fit into any other category, really.

KC225 Sat 23-Mar-19 11:54:46

To me literary would be the classics that have stood the rest of time - non literary would be what I call holiday reading. A similar analogy could be classical music and the top twenty. Doesn't mean to say that every piece of classical music is high brow or good, doesn't mean that the lastest boyband won't be a classic in 40 years time. I have read some classics but I do like a easy read page turner. You like what you like OP - nothing wrong with that.

DolorestheNewt Sat 23-Mar-19 11:56:19

I think these categories are invented (with a corollary "everything else" category) as a means of controlling what's seen as valid, setting up an acceptable 21st century canon. I say ignore such ideological divisions and read what you enjoy (but also don't be afraid to push yourself a bit).

Primarystress Sat 23-Mar-19 11:56:29

I thought literary fiction was fiction which in some way links itself with the wider literary canon, such as using a quote from an older novel or something.

tympanic Sat 23-Mar-19 12:17:12

My understanding is that while genre fiction is driven by plot, literary fiction is driven by characters and delivers a deeper, more poignant comment on the human condition through these characters.

YANBU for not wanting to read literary fiction. They’re not all heavy and standoffish though. The Old Man and the Sea and The Metamorphosis are considered literary fiction but are both novellas and very easy, very entertaining reads. You can read into either as deeply as you like.

HaventGotAllDay Sat 23-Mar-19 12:20:43

Literary fiction is fiction up its own arse. Thinks it's a cut above itself. grin

HeathRobinson Sat 23-Mar-19 12:27:14

@tympanic - The Metamorphosis, entertaining? Kafka? 😂 I did it for A level and I hated it!

MuseumofInnocence Sat 23-Mar-19 12:32:28

I would say it’s what is deemed to have literary value in itself and typically not genre fiction

ScreamingValenta Sat 23-Mar-19 12:37:31

I read somewhere that literary fiction is the genre that claims not to be a genre grin.

It can be just as entertaining as genre fiction and in my experience, stands up better to re-reading because it tends to be more character-driven than plot-driven, and the quality of the prose is important in itself, rather than just as a means of telling the story.

droningtraffic Sat 23-Mar-19 12:39:48

Books for posh people

GenericHamster Sat 23-Mar-19 12:40:59

Ime literary fiction tends to be concerned with making every word count, occasionally to the detriment to the plot. Genre fiction is about making every page count towards the plot, sometimes ignoring the quality of the words used along the way.

I've read plenty of literary fic and enjoyed it but must admit since having children I prefer fiction that tends to be 'easier to get into'. A crime fic that immediately sets up 'whodunnit and will they be caught' will always be more of a page-turner than a slow character study.

ScreamingValenta Sat 23-Mar-19 12:42:16

Books for posh people

No, not at all! I like lit fic and I'm as common as muck.

BlackPrism Sat 23-Mar-19 12:42:56

Its just canonisation isn't it?

GeorgeTheBleeder Sat 23-Mar-19 12:44:14

My understanding is that while genre fiction is driven by plot, literary fiction is driven by characters

And language - and how it is used?

Do labels really matter? If asked, I'd define literary fiction as anything that demands some brain input from the reader - so I'd include a huge amount of Sci-fi in the category.

BigFatGiant Sat 23-Mar-19 12:46:32

Literary is good fiction. Non literary is the rest. It’s like the divide between art house and regular cinema. It’s about the use of literary technique to produce a better quality of writing. A lot of popular fiction is literary by nature. One kind isn’t necessarily and better for you than the other but it is superior quality. Like buying merino wool rather than regular wool. Regular wool won’t hurt you. Some people prefer it. But merino wool is generally of a better quality.

Adversecamber22 Sat 23-Mar-19 12:46:49

Read whatever you like, at least your reading. I agree with * KC255* with the comparison to classical music and was about to write something similar.

JellyBeanScene Sat 23-Mar-19 12:47:41

Literary fiction is not for posh people. I'm far from 'posh' and it's my favourite genre but I'm happy to read other genres too. I detest book snobbery but the reverse snobbery around literary fiction could dissuade people from thinking that it isn't for them, which is sad. There's absolute nothing wrong with choosing not to read it but I hate the idea of making people think that it's only for 'snobs' when that's not at all true.

tympanic Sat 23-Mar-19 12:49:33

@HeathRobinson How can a story about a man who wakes up to find he’s turned into a giant cockroach be anything OTHER than entertaining?!

exculpatrix Sat 23-Mar-19 12:50:00

Lit fic is fiction that the publishing establishment has decided is suitably highbrow. It'll probably be nominated for some serious awards. Genre fiction is anything the establishment doesn't feel like taking seriously.

Occasionally something that's otherwise genre fiction will get recategorised as lit fic, if it's written by the right person. For example, a lot of Margaret Atwood's stuff is firmly in the realms of sci-fi or fantasy, but because she's a serious author it gets called magical realism instead and given a free pass.

AlpacaLypse Sat 23-Mar-19 12:51:27

@HeathRobinson it took me years to recover from having to read some of the set texts for history degree. I was in my thirties before I was able to bring myself to voluntarily pick up a history book. I'm cured again now though! The Economic History of the World was actually fascinating and saw me through the very boring phase when my premature twins had stopped being in danger and were just sitting in SCBU being fed, sleeping and growing big enough to be taken home.

ScreamingValenta Sat 23-Mar-19 12:55:14

Another point about lit fic is that it often explores abstract ideas in much greater depth than genre fic. You might find philosophical debate woven into the narrative or explored through the characters.

Vulpine Sat 23-Mar-19 12:56:21

I often find that books that have won some sort of literary prize are dull as ditch water

angieloumc Sat 23-Mar-19 12:56:57

I love literary fiction, sometimes it's hard to get into but I find it a lot more satisfying.
I think there's a place for every type of fiction (or indeed non-fiction). I myself don't especially like authors such as Sophie Kinsella but recognise she is a very popular and successful writer. However I must admit I can't see why anyone would read a '50 shades' type of work but each to their own.

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