Today’s topic is about literary fiction aka “we-are-sailing-into-murky-territories-known-as-literary-fiction-please-help-me.”
What is literary fiction?
Everybody has their own views of what they consider “classic” or “genre.” And literary fiction is the same. Defining “literary fiction” is a bit tricky. It’s a fairly new term. I feel that it is…everything else, but emphasizes a lot on meaning instead of pure entertainment. “Literary fiction” are like works of art. The content is so rich and complex (and that is to say other genres are not). It’s generally considered works that are “critically acclaimed” or “serious.” It’s the section I naturally gravitate toward whenever I enter a bookstore (before I fell back into young adult novels). It’s what I read and analyzed as an English major in college.
Literary fiction is love of mine. An old lover, you can say.
Contemporary literary fiction!
I feel kind of embarrassed to admit this – I don’t read a lot of contemporary literary fictions. I own a lot of it. It’s not that I don’t want to. I don’t have the attention span. I have a list of books and authors I am dying to read. Here are some authors that I want to read and believe that they fit into literary fiction.
- Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood)
- Margaret Atwood (The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace)
- Doris Lessing (The Golden Notebook)
- Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore)
- Maria Semple (Where’d You Go, Bernadette)
- Carol Rifka Brunt (Tell the Wolves I’m Home)
- Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe)
- Joan Didion (Play It as It Lays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
All (or at least most) of these works are critically acclaimed books that I need to get my greedy hands on.
Note: I have excluded YA novels because I don’t feel like it fits under literary fiction (with the exception of a few like On the Jellicoe Road).
1920s & Onwards!
Do authors/books that were published in the 1920s (and onwards) count? They do! Literary fiction doesn’t always pertain to contemporary books! There are plenty of 60+ year old books that are fits the definition. Any book that has been critically acclaimed. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Virgina Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Edith Wharton, Zora Neale Hurston. I consider all these authors to fit into literary fiction (and not classic literature). And I’m not sure if you can tell, all the authors I picked are from the late 20th to early 21st century. Why? It’s my favorite time period for books! We have the introduction of Modernism and the Lost Generation!
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- Every author/book in the bullet list above.
For the record, I hate referring to anything as “literary fiction” or “mainstream fiction.” I think it’s one of those terms that is unnecessary. It’s a bit difficult to define because the term is so broad, yet concise. I don’t know what it wants from me!
What are your thoughts on literary fiction? Are you as clueless as I am?