The current topic of discussion is literary fiction.
Whenever I think of literary fiction, I think of the Stephen King quote:
“Read sometimes for the story, Bobby. Don’t be like the book snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words – the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers that won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”
King would probably consider me a “play-it-safer.” Not to say I don’t appreciate — “treasure” — the books that have do have both. But I can’t read only for the words.
And anyway, the words aren’t enough to classify something as literary, are they? I always think of literary fiction as being layered with hidden meanings and symbols. Even if a book I’m reading does have those things, chances are I’m not paying attention to them. My appreciation for “well-written” seldom goes beyond the style and the lyricism of the words.
So, while there may be some books I’ve read and enjoyed that qualify as “serious literature,” I don’t think of them that way. I just think of them as books that have characters and a plot and a flow to the writing that I enjoy… and I don’t differentiate them from any of the other books I read that have characters and a plot and a flow to the writing that I enjoy that aren’t given that “literary” distinction.
That said, one book on my 5-star list that may be literary fiction is The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. Most often I see it referred to as mystery or suspense, but it’s well-written, it’s won awards, it pays homage to gothic classics like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre… although this last is done in such a way that even I — who’ve never read them — got the connection, so does that mean it’s trying too hard to be literary to qualify?
At any rate, it’s a good book, and probably one of the more literary novels I’ve actually enjoyed.
What are some of your favorite literary novels? What makes them stand out to you?