What do you think of literary fiction? That it's boring, plotless, and hard to get through? Not! It can be just as thrilling to read as the latest bestseller. Jessica Bell and I are doing a joint post on this subject. She has just signed a contract for her debut novel, a work of women's literary fiction, so clearly this is a hot topic over at The Alliterative Allomorph. Go Jessica!
Literary fiction isn't a big seller these days. Bella might read Wuthering Heights and be in love with Heathcliff, but the Twilight series isn't literary fiction. It's page-turning, can't put it down 'til you're done fiction. It's M & M's, pop in your mouth without thinking, consume on a bus, in a car, at the DMV. Not rich, dark chocolate to be savored, preferably alone, so as not to be interrupted from the delicious experience.
Lest you think I'm a literary snob, I am not. I love a fast read. There's a place for M & M's, and there's a place for the really good chocolate. I enjoy them both. And it takes skill to write one of those books you just can't put down. Don't make the mistake of thinking because it reads easy, it writes easy.
Every so often you come across a book that does it both. Here's my short list:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (American classic; my review here)
Misery by Stephen King (imho his best work; my review here)
The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark (yummy; my review here)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (short, literary, sweet & compelling; my rating here)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (the best YA novel ever, before YA was a genre; my rating here)
These books have the elements we literary buffs love when it's done well--symbolism, depth of characterization, well-written prose that just makes you pause and take a deep breath then read it again, deeper meanings below the surface-- while still telling a great story.
No one can spin a page-turning, keep you up all night tale any better than Stephen King. But Misery has more to it than the usual suspense/psycho character out to kill our hero. I loved the writer analogies-- hugely insightful and entertaining.
The Book of Unholy Mischief is like butter. Cream. Rich wondrous goodness. Food is a big part of it, so thus the food analogies. It's not only that I'm really hungry right now *umm cheesecake* but it truly is a savor and still can't put it down kind of novel.
And as for the other novels on my list, well you just have to sample them. Indulge. Really get into it. If they were school assignments and you hated reading them, forget that and read them now with pleasure. No book reports required.
How about it? Do you vote for M & M's or rich dark chocolate? Maybe both depending on your mood? Be sure to head over to Jessica's blog for her ideas. She's listed a few authors I'm definitely going to add to my to-read shelf.
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf