Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA Day 3: Literary Fiction

 I love literary fiction, but I’m not sure what it is.
 I came of age in a different era, before the explosion of genres – there was no YA --and in a different environment, when casual reading seemed to mean Leon Uris and James Michener.
 It seemed to my adolescent self that real reading meant serious reading. For me there were only two kinds of books, the ones in the downstairs library for children and the ones upstairs that I was finally allowed to look at, for adults.  I loved reading mostly for the comfort it gave me, so I as a serious adult-like person, I was determined to read and read very seriously.
I doggedly read books that were way beyond my understanding  Pride and Prejudice at 11, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth at 14, Ulysses, all by myself in a summer lawn chair when I was 19. I got an MA in English, taught a little and was a journalist. Somehow I learned to read literary fiction.
I learned that not understanding an element of a book was a way into it; if I could frame a question, I could perhaps discover an answer.

I developed my own way to have a conversation with a book. What question does the book ask me? Mostly that involves what seeing what pops ups and asking why this, not that?  Sometimes it’s what delights, startles, surprises or perplexes me. I love discovering layers and connections, allusions, literary conventions turned on their heads and the architecture of a book. I love the playfulness of literary fiction.
Hey, wait! Playfulness? Yes, not so serious after all, or rather serious play.
Maybe that’s an element of literary fiction?
What books have you read this year that would fit into this category?
 I would include John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square, and Jane Gardam’s Old Filth, Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth.

Is there anything coming up that you're particularly excited about?
 Having read one of Gardam’s book, I’m looking forward to the next two in the series and writing about them.

Gotta go to work. Bye.


  1. I chuckled at your upstairs/downstairs books. My parents kept book up in their room as well, but little did they know (or maybe they did), that I snuck up and read them. I loved The Fault In Our Stars.

  2. Your comment:

    I learned that not understanding an element of a book was a way into it; if I could frame a question, I could perhaps discover an answer.

    is wonderful. And I think I said somewhere else that your questions have really given me pause for thought as I read


  3. Thanks Karen. They are a way of writing more than a summary. I always knew I could write what I thought of as recipe reviews --summary, characters and then the other elements -- on deadline, but I never felt satisfied by them. I didn't feel they were enough for me or my readers.