It's Personal Taste

There's definitely nothing wrong with that.

I touched on this when I wrote my Fifty Shades post here: Fifty Shades of Fifty Shades.  Now I've just read this: It's Genre Fiction here.

First off, I want to thank Arthur Krystal for helping me finally understand what literary fiction is. Literature with a capital 'L', as it were.  Because I've always kind of shaken my head thinking it was a story that wandered like a lost bee full of pedantic words with a lousy, or at best, dumbfounded ending.  (Pedantic: adj. Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules. That's also what I thought literary fiction was about.  Looking up words.)

He talks about how we're returning to the days of good old fashioned storytelling which was disdained by the modernists and this was helpful for me to understand why literary readers and writers cling to this genre--because literary novels are a genre unto themselves, ask Jennifer Crusie.

The mention of modernists was a vital piece of information I'd been missing. You see, I learned something about modernists from my daughter's first boyfriend. He asked me to critique his essay on Salvador Dali. I was especially happy to pass this same sliver of knowledge along to my father, because he'd never seen the point in Picasso and abstract and bent clocks either.

Modern art was birthed out of necessity for survival. When photography became widely available, artists who could paint a good likeness lost to the perfect likeness of Kodak. They had to bend clocks and use other gimmicks to get noticed. No, I mean they were trying to get people to think. Except, they were also trying to stay relevant and get noticed and sell a painting or two.

Now I'm all for making people stop and think. Here I am, throwing words onto a page right now, hoping you'll take away something more than that I'm a name-dropper who never understood what Modernism was about.

I think the snob-factor of literature is a leftover of this 'have to say something' attitude. Why write a book that is a clear snapshot of life, perhaps even a posed one, when you could be taking minds to a place they've never been? It's a lofty aspiration and perhaps we should commend those who try and those who follow the author's path to their brand of enlightenment.

This path, according to Arthur, has the potential to 'break the sea frozen inside us', whereas commercial fiction never will.  "One reads Conrad and James and Joyce not simply for their way with words but for the amount of felt life in their books."

Hmmph. Okay, here's the thing. What I said in my Fifty Shades post was that sometimes people want to be challenged by their reading and sometimes they don't. I stand by that. Real Life breaks the sea inside of me and leaves me stinging and hurt and railing at tragedy. I escape from that mess by reading something that uplifts me. 

And again we get a comparison that commercial fiction is light and fluffy--he likens it to Santa Claus, while literary fiction is Wotan.

I would like to shift the metaphor to food. It sounds to me like literary fiction is about experimenting and opening your mind to what previously seemed impossible. Eating bugs for instance. I might eat one by accident in my broccoli, but for the most part I'd like to eat just the broccoli, thanks. I know what I'm getting and it makes me feel good to eat it.

All this to say, again, isn't this just about personal taste? I suppose we can praise the bug-eater for going forth and trying new things, but the reliable gardner is equally necessary in this world. Plus, how does the bug-eater even stand out if everyone is eating bugs?

Now I'm going to go look up who the heck Wotan is.