Throughout this past year there’s been a persistent idea percolating around the literati: could literary fiction really be dead? No for real this time?
No less an authority than Philip Roth wondered last year whether people still had the patience to read novels. Last month Lee Siegel wrote an article wondering “Where Have All the Mailers Gone?” and wrote, “fiction has become culturally irrelevant.” A few months ago, in an article titled “The Death of Fiction?,” Ted Genoways took stock of the explosion of creative writing programs coupled with the vanishing space for literary stories in magazines. Last year David Shields published REALITY HUNGER: A MANIFESTO, which examined culture’s thirst for reality, and why current literary novels feel lifeless as a form.
Now, the idea that fiction as a whole has become culturally irrelevant is patently ridiculous when you consider that people are currently buying TWILIGHT underwear and when Avada Kedavra has been a trending topic on Twitter the last few days. The novel is far, far from dead, and Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy wrote a gleeful takedown of Siegel’s article.
And let’s also acknowledge that this is not a new idea. Here’s a post from The Guardian in 2001 wondering about the end of literary fiction, and here’s one from the Times in 1992 predicting the end of the novel as we know it due to, wait for it, hypertext.
But could there be something to all of this hand-wringing this time? Sure, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, and James Patterson are some of the bestselling authors of all time and have created cultural tsunamis, but that’s genre fiction. What about literary fiction? Do our current literary luminaries pack the same cultural punch as their counterparts did in the past?
Major publishers are publishing fewer literary novels. Review space is almost nonexistent. The Internet has empowered the crowd at the expense of elites. Could it be real this time?
And if we are witnessing a slow decline in the impact of literary fiction, what’s behind it?
Most of all: is this something we should fear?
(If you’re wondering what makes a novel “literary,” here’s my take)
I really hope that literary fiction isn't on the way out, because that's the genre I most enjoy reading and writing. But I do agree that people are growing more and more impatient with their entertainment. They want it when they want it, and they don't want to wait for a novel to build upon itself slowly.
I'm sure that literary fiction will survive, but in order to become more popular it has to change. The literary fiction novels of a hundred years ago aren't the same literary fiction novels being written today. No one would read them if they were the same novels that had been written in the last century. It'll change, but it won't go away, and it's up to the writers to adapt with the changing tastes of their audiences while remaining true to their craft.
This is most promising! Nothing guarantees a resurgence than a declaration of a demise. If the big guns are fretting, then we are only a few years shy of a new literary renaissance!
Laura Martone says
Then again, when I hear my nieces talk and I realize just how much younger generations (heck, even MY generation) are influenced by short-attention-span media like Twitter, Facebook, TV shows, and the Internet in general, I do fear that slower-paced, literary stories are going to fade away, which makes me sad. Sniff, sniff.
But then, an intelligent (albeit bad-ass) film like INCEPTION rules the box office for three weeks in a row, and hope is once more renewed!
If only as many people read literary novels as tried to write them. If everyone in an MFA program bought one literary novel a month — hell, a season — business would be booming.
Erik Hare says
I think that the future of all fiction is up in the air, but literary fiction even moreso. The future is likely to be along the lines of commercial literary fiction, I think.
This is part of the reasoning behind my newest online project <a href="https://Mythnology.com/>Mythnology</a>. It's an online serial novel with a very series literary substory. And it deals with the workings of the mind – but as a plot device.
The interactive / performance aspects of it are an attempt to return to the roots of storytelling. Please visit to see the first three chapters and a detailed explanation.
Thanks for saying this, I feel this way too.
Literary fiction may be changing, adapting, being used in different ways, but for as long as I can imagine, people will want to hears stories that provide insight into humanity, that capture something both unique and universal.
In Nathan's previous blog about literary fiction he mentions empathy and that is something often lacking in today's world. I think good literary fiction is very important to a child's (and adult's) social development. I read in last week's newspaper that schools are going to cut the reading of fiction in favor of nonfiction. A sad thing, in my opinion. Seeing inside the hearts and minds of people different to ourselves, through the stories in literary fiction,helps nurture a kind and understanding society.
This is such an interesting conversation, and I think that there might need to be a re-defining of 'literary'. Nowadays we read books written by the likes of Hawthorne or Melville or *insert name of school reading author* and we can point at it and say that the works are 'literary' but the truth is, they writing like people spoke in those days.
Contributions to the lack of literary punch today? Partly, we might be looking in the wrong place–and the Stephen Kings and Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings are the authors that define our modern times, so we would have to look at them in a different light. At least two of those writers do have college classes available on some campuses.
Then, we may also truly be lacking in writers willing to talk about the issues that pound at us today. All of the authors listed above are fantastical in one way or another–providing an escape.
The writers who are considered the best at the literary style break the rules. Stream-of-conciousness, all fragments, magical realism, these are all styles that broke the rules when established. Now? What rules are there to break, and what is accomplished when they are broken? There doesn't seem to be an author who is the 'Voice of the Generation' at the moment.
But, like all things shifting around in this publishing world, I'm sure they're coming. Just wait for it.
No, literary fiction is not dying. As lots of other people have said above, it has always had a smaller readership than the more mass market fiction, and I don't think that's changed. Storytelling will go on, regardless of fashions and the market and technology, as humans need stories to live full lives.
I feel the need to kick in twice. This, indeed, is an interesting conversation. Unfortunately, I don't read many modern novels except, lately, Caribbean fiction, or works that are coming out of that people. But to add a reference for what I consider literary that isn't formulaic and challenges my emotions and sense of morals without creating other-worldly tropes is a book from 1964 by Jean Genet called The Thief's Journal. The first chapter had me so wrapped up in honest writing that I couldn't put it down. Now, I have to admit I still scramble to divorce myself from personal empathy because popular ideals of success dictate my disgust, yet, this is beautiful, honest writing. Is he telling the truth? I don't know. Do I try to read the whole thing once in a while? You bet. Do I own it and does it sit on my book shelf? Yes it does. Does it challenge my sense of humanity? Again, of course. Anyway, I consider this a good example, though it's old now.
Terin Tashi Miller says
I have to agree with Mira on this one. Seriously. Sort of.
I can safely state literary fiction isn't dead outside of America, as many continue to read "literary" novels in translation, because it seems to do more than mirror or reflect even a particular society or country's "popular" culture–it reflects humanity.
To me, "literature," as in "literary" fiction, is storytelling (can't let that go) presented artfully, containing all the elements of artistic expression, touching on some commonality or interest among humans, making it more than fodder for "Lit" classes or publishing houses lists, making it something that will be read and relevant perhaps 100 years from its first publication.
Literary novels,(I hope), are far more than "new" or "obscure" or "esoteric" or "elevated" writing that some professor or critic or publicity machine determines are "must" reads.
So, I don't believe literary fiction is dead or ever will die. As for losing its place in our culture, perhaps, but its place in our culture has always been somewhat precarious, having to compete with whatever makes more money for the publisher or media company (don't forget movie adaptations, toys, and other "marketable" offshoots).
But literary fiction has always been a "hard sell," to people looking more for excitement or thrills than thought provoking art.
I am more interested in trying to use writing as an artistic method of storytelling than generating an income through my writing.
So, literary fiction, and my attempts at it, will continue until others who feel like me are dead. Hopefully, each generation of literary fiction writers encourages the next.
But it never, really, has sold all that well.
(The Great Gatsby's sales made F. Scott Fitzgerald despondent, despite Max Perkins' attempts at encouraging him).
Perhaps literary fiction only becomes relevent when readers start telling others about it. And eventually, a professor or even high school "lit" teacher makes it required reading…:)
Lorelei Armstrong says
Because genre fiction is largely composed of stories where the reader would like to be the main character and literary fiction is the opposite.
Because genre fiction is escapist and literary fiction is the opposite.
And Amy B.? You found most literary fiction to be written by white males? I assume this was 1940. Come on back, the water's fine.
Agree with Katharine Hyde. I read a very small book, adapted from a magazine article, which demolished much current literature as overstuffed nonsense — but I can't remember the book or author and I quickly passed it on because it was so funny and brilliant and right. "Literary" fiction has become stylized, pretentious and unreadable. Read some Turgenev and see how natural and straightforward literary fiction can be. Turgenev would never make it at a writer's workshop, however, and he certainly wouldn't get an MFA with that kind of prose.
Amber Forbes says
In any case, like I've said before, if people want to keep literary fiction alive, or some part of it, write a story that straddles the line between commercial and literary. It's very possible to have both a great story and amazing writing. I've read several YA novels this year–bestsellers–that do this masterfully. These novels are accessible to the general public, but also leave something for those who love to delve beyond the surface of a work.
So I just finished commenting on your previous post and my comment there deals with parts of this, I think. Like the bits about how I see writing as art but I don't have an MFA. I don't have a four year degree at all.
So that does color my definition of "literary". I think of the 19th century classics I read for fun growing up, not the boring and pretentious although it did have a few nice sentences Pulitzer winner I flipped through at the bookstore the other day. So I guess I tend to definite it as "great story, great writing, unique and interesting and not written to fit into a market".
Literary fiction may be losing its place in publishing culture. But I've got a writing forum full of links to free stuff online that's better than 90% of what I see in corporate bookstores.
Okay, so it's mostly stories illustrated with the Sims game so it's not viable for professional publishing anyway. But I only invite the best authors I see in the Sims community and the quality of the prose in between the pictures is quite high. The stories are imaginative with high concepts behind them and wouldn't fit comfortably in any genre. And there's quite the subculture surrounding them. The Bloomsbury Group has nothing on us. 🙂
Been cruising Web Fiction Guide lately, and while it has some clunkers I've found some absolute gems. The weblit culture doesn't seem as active and cohesive as the Sims story culture, but I think it's growing.
Maybe the correct question is "Are corporations who only focus on the bottom line losing their place in culture?" Because I'm still reading great stories with beautiful prose and deep meanings. Just I'm reading them online straight from the author.
I doubt it. In the end, the market is always fluctuating.
After all, who thought a single, moody, sparkly vampire would make the whole paranomal/urban fantasy scene explode?
I don't read a lot of literary fiction, but I wouldn't count it out. All it takes is one book for everyone and their grandma to get back into the literary groove again.
The real question is: What book will it be?
I think there is always room for literary fiction that communicates in a nonetheless stylish way. The problem is the stuff that doesn't. It baffles the reader with its seeming brilliance and leaves her feeling like a moron because she doesn't get it and feels she should, because everyone pretends to. Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, William Vollman, Kazuo Ishiguro (e.g. The Unconsoled) are some of the most notable examples. It's the syndrome of the writer as tailor of The Emperor's New Clothes.
But if you look at the work of Richard Powers, for example, whom almost no one but the Lit professors read, you realize you're in the presence of a master. The Time of Our Singing and the Goldbug Variations were particularly brilliant. But Powers likes to write about something other than words. Science, music, computers, medicine; whatever subject he delves into, his vast erudition is unquestionably clear.
There are still people making contributions to the culture in the form of literary fiction but, as at all times, the market seldom recognizes them.
Last time I looked, Kenyon Review was not on the book shelf in check out lanes at Walmart.
I wonder whether Shipping News and Kavalier and Klay were ever in the paperbacks shelf at Walgreens. Don't think so.
In decades long ago, did For Whom the Bell Tolls outsell books from Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie?
This comments on this post have been so interesting; thank you everyone.
I was thinking about how literary fiction perhaps sometimes has the aim of speaking for a voiceless generation; of capturing the spirit of a time. If that is sometimes the case, then I think Nathan's description of the internet empowering the crowd is an important one. Through Twitter, especially, no one with internet access is voiceless. The trending topics list gives us a snapshot of what millions of people are talking and thinking about at any moment. We're receiving the thoughts of humanity every second, and they can be beautiful, or mundane, or prurient, or hurtful, or hilarious, but they're real.
A literary work that tries to tap into the universal aspects of being human needs to find its place amongst those distinct voices, and perhaps the culture just needs to find an equilibrium after the choppy waves caused by this sudden explosion of voices, before the literary voices can be heard again.
Sheila Cull says
I don't think there's a need for worry. Asking if literary fiction will die is like asking if classical music will.
Sheila Cull says
I don't think there's a need for worry. Asking if literary fiction will die is like asking if classical music will.
Geez, Nathan, you took a risk misspelling the most famous curse of all time 🙂
Al DeLuca says
I think it is experiencing a lull, however it is clear that the publishing industry in general is experiencing a lull.
Because of this, I think traditional publishers are doing more genre fiction because it sells, however this is a temporary fix. It's putting a band-aid on a crumbling building.
I think within the next five years we are going to see a new publishing model that is NOTHING like any of the current attempts to bring fiction to the 21st century. I fully expect something as game-changing for fiction as YouTube, iTunes, and Netflix were to the music and video industries.
I still don't know what constitutes literary fiction, from say, book club fiction.
And that's the problem. I think I love literary fiction, but I consider lit fiction to be Michael Chabon and Curtis Sittenfeld. Then I hear others spout off names of famous lit fiction authors and not only have I never read their work, I've never even HEARD of them.
Everyone is using different terminology for what lit fiction is — even if they agree with your (link) definition.
Nathan Bransford says
Fixed, hopefully before you-know-who noticed.
Kate Lacy says
Perhaps what one is missing in the big picture is the answer to "Are we who read willing to forego the chance to savor both stories and the art of expression that we have found by authors known to be 'literary' writers?" Would we willingly go into tomorrow knowing that we'd never stumble over another _____ insert your favorite 'grand master.' I suggest that some bloggers and those who write commercial articles often jump on trendy bandwagons because they gather a reading audience and that's where the fun begins. It's so much easier to be a nay-sayer. I recall that first movies and then television were going to make the printed word obsolete also. Hmmmm?
Kay Richardson says
For 'literary' read boring. All these bloody writers using their own names in the novel and all that postmodern nonsense. Whatever happened to stories? You know, like Bambi or Snow White?
Julia Rachel Barrett says
Once again, you get so many comments it seems pointless to make one, but here goes, and I'll quote you –
"First off, I'd like to bust one of the myths about literary fiction — that it doesn't have a plot. Sooooooooo much literary fiction I get in the old query inbox is plotless. It's just a character musing about the vagaries and eccentricities of everyday existence. The prose is lush, the character detailed, but one problem — absolutely nothing is happening and thus it's (forgive me) extremely boring. Good literary fiction has a plot. It starts in one place and ends in another. The characters face challenges and evolve. Even in quiet books like GILEAD (a seriously amazing book, btw), things happen. A literary novel might not end in a shootout or with the death of an albino, but there's a plot there."
You've nailed the problem for me with much of today's literary fiction – no plot, only annoying plot devices. Good literary fiction does indeed possess a plot and it will sell, Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay, is a case in point. Or, Cutting for Stone – wonderful book.
In recent years, I've actually found genre fiction to be far more interesting. Why? Because much of today's literary fiction seems so self-absorbed, narcissistic, and whiny. If I want whiny and self-absorbed, I'll call my sister.
Great literary fiction? Under Heaven, Cloud Splitter, Ahab's Wife, The Handmaid's Tale…I can go on and on…
Creative writing programs and Barnes & Noble invented 'literary' fiction, and though it says as much about me as it does my taste in fiction, I don't know anyone under the age of 40 who reads literary fiction and hasn't pursued some form of an advanced degree in English. Literary fiction has become an acquired taste. As these labels lose some of their heft, it should free things up. We're seeing really fun fiction being published right now. Jennifer Egan. Joshua Ferris. Gary Shteyngart. Just this summer! I hope things trend in that direction.
Pamela Livingston says
Isn't excellent literary fiction the exception over the rule? The true trend setters with new and unique voices of our past produced works that stood-up over time but were not necessarily best sellers to begin with. Some of these works were too revolutionary to be viewed adequately without the benefit of perspective.
Personally, I am encouraged by M.T. Anderson's "Octavian Nothing" Volumes I & II. He moved from writing "Feed" to something completely different with an exceptional voice. Although it's marketed for young adults, which may have to do with audience of his earlier works, it's a completely differnt genre, historic fiction instead of fantasy. It seems that this is a case for marketing and "type casting" successfully expanding the audience for a more literary work.
J. T. Shea says
Of course the literary novel is dead! This new-fangled typewriter thing killed it. It's now much too easy for the Great Unwashed to write novels about unworthy subjects like their own pointless lives and dreams.
But hark! What's that noise outside the window? Good heavens! What are those strange carriages whizzing by in the street? Where are the horses?
What day is it? What YEAR is it? 2010!? Omigod! What happened to the twentieth century? Could Queen Victoria be dead? The horror! The horror!
Amy Lundebrek says
I really enjoyed your discussion of the difference between commercial and literary fiction. After reading it, I'm thinking, maybe the traditional literary novel is fading in popularity because we live in a time where things are happening- and really fast at that. We as humans are forced to live our internal life amidst a daunting flow of external events. Due to the internet, we are also forced to internally process a lot more "events" than people used to even hear about. So maybe a quiet novel where most of the plot is below the surface just isn't something most people are able to identify with at this time in history.
I don't think it's dead, though.
I think these times are not going to support depressing literary fiction.
Fantasy is all the rage.
Let us escape into a world of adventure, imagination, love.
When the culture at large is in crisis (economic depression/oil spills/health care crisis/etc.), we need stories that will carry us through or take us away, not ones that will make our worlds ever the more grave.
However, beautifully written, uplifting literary works, embedded with hope, will have a chance.
But probably literary fiction will be anemic for a good while.
This is a time when story-buyers, both in print and in film, are looking for escape from reality.
I have to agree with Terin Tashi Miller on this one.
I thought your point that literary writers are frequently writing for Art's sake, and will continue regardless, was well said.
So I was just at this writer's conference with more than six hundred people and everyone's writing YA and it's all about vampires or zombies or space ships. I asked why and they said because it's so popular. Wrong answer. If you don't write about something that moves you….if you don't read something that moves you…you won't survive for the long haul. You'll be chasing trends. You may as well chase the stock market.
There are things I have read that Hemingway wrote that still resonate with me all these years later. The Time Traveler's Wife TO ME is literary and an amazing story that still moves me four months after I read it.
READ. READ. READ. Write prose, develop your own style and write honestly (that doesn't mean chasing trends like vampires because that might have been Stephanie Meyer's dream, but is it really yours??)
Terin Tashi Miller says
OK. I have one last thought on this because I think it's a great question.
I think self-publishing, and ebooks, as first inklings of literary fiction once again gaining attention, will supersede "traditional" publishing.
Because "literary" fiction doesn't make enough money for shareholders, and taking on new writers–without proven sales or other measures–is becoming not only too great a risk but too often a costly mistake.
Few people outside journalism seem to have noticed, or been aware, that for the first time in history, a Website won a Pulitzer this past year (ProPublica.com, begun by the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, and some other WSJ alumni).
An ebook, on its own, or for that matter a self-published novel, has yet to win such recognition.
But that is where the cost to publish is extremely low, the royalties are comparatively higher, and "literary" writers are bound to go–the place where as a writer you can get the most readers at the less economic cost to you personally.
It isn't losing its place in American culture. It's finally (in my opinion) evolving into a place where it can benefit humanity as a whole most–the internationally accessible (relatively speaking) internet.
So. Keep your eyes and ears out for the first Nobel Peace Prize for literature being awarded to an e-book writer. Or even the writer of a self-published book. I predict it will happen.
Who read "100 Years Of Solitude" or "Love In the Time Of Cholera" in this country before Gabriel Garcia Marquez was given an award?
One last recommendation: you want literary fiction? Read Christian Bauman's "The Ice Beneath You" or "Voodoo Lounge."
It isn't boring. It isn't narcissistic whining. A lot happens. It has a plot.
The Great Gatsby was a murder story.
The Brothers Karamazov, essentially also a murder story.
L'Assimoir, a story of economic tragedy.
Mihail Lehrmontov's "A Hero Of Our Times," essentially a story of the development of a moral code.
Old Goirot, a story of aging.
A River Runs Through It, similar.
The Angle of Repose, similar.
I've never been a great fan of narcissistic whiny writing. If that's what now passes for "literary fiction," kill it.
If I read a paragraph I don't understand, or can't follow or get into a story, I put the thing down and consider how I might get my $30 or so back. I don't care whose name is on everyone's lips. I care if I get something out of reading the book.
Go ahead. Read Hemingway. Read it out loud. Drop it if you don't get anything out of it. If, however, you do, tell your friends how or why it moved you. And suggest they read it, too.
Do the same with not just Hemingway. Do it even, or especially, with an e-book or self-published book that intrigues you. Go ahead. Be bold. Be daring. Be independent. Read something because you want to, not because someone told you it was required.
In societies of comfort there's less a pressing need for challenge, and this of course slowly 'dumbs down' society until easy-entertainment becomes less a choice than an expectation. (This is evident in the literature during the dusk of the Roman Empire, though today the internet certainly exacerbates the trend.)
So, yes: in comfortable cultures I believe that literary fiction is losing its place.
Julia Rachel Barrett says
Katherine and Terin Tashi Miller – both of you on the bottom – brilliant! I did read One Hundred Years of Solitude when it was first translated into English – years ago. I hope I wasn't the only one! Katherine, that is an issue isn't it – writing whatever is trendy..vampires, YA, shifters.
I hope, in the end, regardless of genre, it's the story that will sell the book. Oh God I hope so…pipe dreams!
Morgan Ives says
Can I just say I hate the differentiation between "genre" and "literary" fiction? Hate. It. I think it is completely artificial.
I think the solution to the whole "literary"/"genre" question is to recognize the literary value in genre fiction, and recognize that literary fiction sometimes crosses genre boundaries.
For example, Margaret Atwood is a "literary" author, but Oryx and Crake is science fiction (no matter how much she wants to deny it). Dan Simmons, on the other hand, is a "genre" author, but I dare anyone to read Ilium and say it has no literary quality.
Literary should not be a genre, it should be a measure of a book's value to society.
Ok, I'm generalizing like the devil here and I know it, and I apologize in advance, so don't give me too much grief. That said, I threw up my hands and gave up on literary fiction published after about 1970 a long time ago*.
I still read and enjoy literature, but after a point, everything I was reading started being almost exactly the same in, I guess tone is the right word? Feeling? Spirit? Always depressing, disaffected and somewhat navel gazing, as if looking deeply and with great introspect into your own completely screwed existence is to understand greater problems. Except that they are written by people who wouldn't know poverty or violence or real malice if it mugged them. And generally they're not even all that self aware, either. The ideas and feeling expressed in the books you've already figured out at ten if you really grow up hard, or at twenty if you've smoked a lot of weed. And past that, I don't need to read it, 'cause I got it, thanks.
I think the problem is that literary fiction is a genre. Trying to distinguish between the two is pointless now. You got space aliens and planetary colonization? Great, you're sci-fi. You got a dead body and a classy dame? Super, you're noir mystery. You got a total bummer of a book and exceptional prose? Way to go, you're literary, and I don't need you because I'm depressed enough already. I grew up in Appalachia fer chrissakes.
*exceptions, Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates.
Ishta Mercurio says
I don't think it is losing its place, per se, but I do think its place is changing.
If we look at some of the recent film adaptations, we can see that many of them were literary novels. So, although the reading public might not necessarily be embracing them at first, they are recognized by somebody as something special, then they are adapted and brought to the greater masses (because more people go to the movies than read books; sad fact of life, folks) and appreciated in a different format.
Bob Mayer says
The Elites? Spare us. How many have really read Ulysses word for word? The ramblings of a drunk. #1 book of the century? Let's all pretend we know what he was saying.
#1 book by readers of 20th century: Dune. Genre?
Lonesome Dove won Pulitzer. A western?
Toni Morrison? Come on. Incomprehensible crap. The Road? No scenes longer than a page. No narrative structure. Let's call the stuff what it is.
People pretending to know something that makes no sense but if we pretend to know what it means, we're smart.
I'm that most-hated among literary circles: the English Literature teacher who HATES a lot of modern literary fiction, for many of the same reasons Sally talks about.
I also agree with the commenter who complained about Genre novels being seen as having no literary merit. That's a crock; the conceit of lazy teachers and professors who don't see that the same archetypical issues pop up in a Harry Potter or Dresden novel as Dickens put his characters through.
What I find very troubling about this question is it does not identify "culture". I recently attended an internship for agents and was shocked an appalled by the fact that there was not one agent there who was of colour . If "culture" is reprsentative of all of society then Lit agents should come from all backgrounds and all walks of life otherwise there is a real danger that the consumer – buying public will only be offered a certain kind of lit. When great writers were wheeling out their manuscripts there were no set markers ie here's a story by a gay person here's a book by a female Genet, Simon De bouvoir and other great writers wrote without fear . Now in a celebrity led and mass tabloid "culture" the agent looks specifically at what he or she can sell . What of the writing , lit fiction would not be in danger of "losing its place in culture" if lit fiction represented all of society not just chicks in Prada or vampire hotties in teenage angst . It's about time that lit agents realised that just because a writer is black does not mean they will pen a history of discrimination and strife and just because a writer is female does not mean she's an authority on chick lit . I didn't see Sylvia Plath and others babbling on about how they write great chick lit . What matters is the narrative , the style the originality and the freedom to write without worrying that your generally WASP like lit agent is going to "connect" and understand and lit fiction is what makes writing worth it . Once the death of the existentalist hero is gone there is no literature only haggling in a market place for the latest fad. Culture is all of us the heart of society and if lit fiction is all about privileged boarding schools, ghosts and ghouls, slave driver bosses at up market fashion houses and trainee witches and rebel werewolves then I say all hail the new stars of lit celebrities with big fan bases no writing ability and a fat pay cheque from Random .
I personally don't believe that Literary Fiction will disappear. Ever notice that everything runs in cycles? Right now, genre fiction is hot; Literary Fiction is not. In time, this will change. Don't give up on it just yet.
Faye Davies says
I read almost exclusively literary fiction. Not because I'm a snob, but because I don't get the depth of sentiment or thought from commercial novels. Plus, when I pick up something like The Da Vinci Code or Twilight, I find myself editing the language as I read. I try to enjoy them, but the thin plots, flabby prose, and clichéd characters give me anything but escapism.
As to whether it's dying as a genre, I'm loathe to think so as I'm currently trying to sell a literary novel. I actually wonder whether serious stories are just finding different formats. TV series like The Wire and Mad Men, the films of Clint Eastwood, Ang Lee – even Spielberg -, seem to provide a greater balance of depth and beauty than is perhaps found in books these days.