Literary Fiction and Genre Fiction: A Brief Analysis

The Pros and Cons of Literary Fiction

Literary fiction has more of an attention to character than plot itself. It uses plot as a vehicle rather than the primary fixture. Plot throws the room together. Speaking personally, reading something with a pseudo-medal embellishment on the cover does bode well and it give a jolt to my self-esteem. That’s why I still read Newberry Medal winners (kidding, maybe).

That being said, the bulk of the non-genre is accused taking itself too seriously. Too often, writers of the genre seem to think the only way to be serious or compelling is to be depressing

In the words of Francine Prose, lit fic and the people who prefer it are associated with, “pettiness, self-seriousness, social-class blinkers, an unsober love of language and erratic insightfulness.” While cliches and tropes are commonly attributed to genre literature, lit fic has its own cliches and tropes; the cynical female protagonist, the cynical male protagonist, bad parents, and smoking. In the future, should an alien race discover the non-genre as the only record of human creativity, they would be led to believe the only way to be an intellectual in this civilization was to be cynical. As for the profuse bad parenting, I am guilty of using this trope, but you write what you know. The biggest critique of non-genre, that is pretentious and inauthentic. Authenticity seems to be one of the top concerns in the western world that correlates to its fixation on identity, gender and race equality, and social activism. 

The Pros and Cons of Genre Fiction

Genre keeps the publishing industry alive.You also have escapism. Sweet escapism. Readers either read to learn or for a form of escape (I tend to go both ways). Let it be noted that the novel itself was considered a genre, and was rebuked for causing one to be desensitized to natural experiences, was considered lowly, and readers were advised to read non-fiction instead. Genre novels also have an importance that extends past the literary world and into popular culture, since these are often the types of books that get movie deals before they are even on the bookshelves. This may be controversial, but I think it can be argued that genre books are better-suited for movies and TV shows, but I’ll elaborate more on that later. 

The cons for genre fiction are well-known. Bad writing, for one, by incorporating bad cliches and one-note characters.It’s also associated with low culture. For generations we have been taught to not judge a book by its cover, but many genre books have off-putting cover designs, or cover designs that are the only highlight of the books existence, working as a siren into wasted hours trying to get through a book, holding onto it like its a bad relationship you put too much time into to give up on now.

With all of that sad, there are pros and cons to literary fiction and genre, and there a good and bad works of literary fiction and genre fiction. Literary fiction is continuing to incorporating genre elements.2016 Pulitzer-Prize contender Kelly Link is a good example of this. George Saunders is another: “Escape from Spiderhead,” Civilwarland in Bad Decline, and “The Semplica Girl Diaries” being his quintissential works. Station Eleven  by Emily St. John Mandel, is part of the ever-growing dystopian sub-genre, but has been commended by literary heavy weight Sigrid Nunez for its literary merit. 

No matter what material one is reading, at least the person is reading. In 2014, The Atlantic reported that 23% of Americans read a book the previous year. Reading at all, even if it is The Atlantic or whatever you can get out of Google Books when you’re researching for fun, it is a stimulating and enriching activity, that has neurological effects on the mind.


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