Literary fiction – into reality

Literary fiction has been in the news; concern that since the recession it has been particularly badly affected. There are also fears that things could get worse in the post-Brexit world.

It is easy to see from the best seller lists that populist, genre fiction, is doing well, particularly promoted on Amazon with sales of Kindle. But for the vast majority of writers who wish to create literary fiction, prose and plot that are not formulaic, where style and language matter, it is very tough. Few authors can rely on their writing to support them; a second job is required. Therefore less time to write.

It is said that the big publishing houses are no longer able to support promising writers. As quoted in The Guardian, Waterstones boss, James Daunt, said that although the printed book is back, he regretted the lack of ‘literary grandees’ coming through as best sellers in the Christmas market.

The Arts Council of England is also worried about the future of literary fiction and is thinking of ways to support individual writers in various ways. How this could be done is unclear, one supposes in the same way that prizes are awarded.

How is this literary fiction defined? definition is thus. ‘Literary fiction is a term that has come into common usage in the early 1960s. The term is principally used to distinguish “serious fiction” which is a work that claims to hold literary merit, in comparison from genre fiction and popular fiction.’ But why is literary fiction important?

I quote from Steve Petit in the Huffington Post ‘Literary fiction  The main reason for a person to read Genre Fiction is for entertainment, for a riveting story, an escape from reality. Literary Fiction separates itself from Genre because it is not about escaping from reality, instead, it provides a means to better understand the world and delivers real emotional responses. There is a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment from finishing a “serious” book and the most important aspect in determining if the novel was indeed a remarkable escape not from reality, but into reality, is if a reader reflects on the words after the last page is turned. With really great pieces of Literary Fiction, this reflection can last for days, weeks, months, even years, until the novel pulls you back in to experience the magic all over again.’@SPetiteWriter

Perfectly expressed. This is the reason I read.  When choosing novels for the Book Group at this is one of our main criteria. If the plot and writing is formulaic, if the characters are stereotypes, what is there to discuss? Allowing Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ into the summer season is an exception for we have to find out why this and many of her other whodunits have survived the test of time. Why yet another film remake? It will be interesting to see how much we enjoy and can validate her writing.

Then returning to ‘literary grandees’, it is pleasing to note that although the male authors have not sold as expected, women have done especially well; Margaret Atwood, Sarah Perry, Helen Dunmore to name but three.

At the same time a letter in earlier this month from wrote of the problem for small publishing houses. An excellent novel they published last year, ‘To the Lake’ by Yana Vagner which sold very well in Russia and won prizes in Europe, was not reviewed by the 50 publications to whom they sent copies. How can a novel become known to the public? Is the media to blame? This novel is on my wish list and I hope that many more book lovers were alerted and will be reading along with me.


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