Genre fiction is often used as a derisive, dismissive term, and that annoys me. I don't have anything against literary fiction, I even read it from time to time, but unless I'm really in the mood for it, it's not my first choice. Mostly it's because there's enough crap going on in the world, and frankly when I sit down with a book, I want to fall into a new world and escape.
For me, genre fiction is the best way to do that. I don't mean to imply that genre fiction is nothing but feel-good fluff - it definitely isn't. But I know that I can count on a journey and an ending that's satisfying and won't leave me weeping - unless it's the good kind of crying.
I have a dear friend who almost exclusively reads literary fiction. She'd been bugging me to read a certain book. I thought it looked like a terrible idea, but she'd loved it and wanted to share it with me. So I made her a deal. I told her if she’d read the genre fiction of my choosing, I’d read the literary fiction of hers. Thus, the arrangement made in hell was born.
This is what happened:
Her: OMG. This is actually really good. Why didn’t I know this?
Me: ‘Cause you’re a fiction snob.
Her: Oh right. I forgot. So, is book two out yet?
Me: Yeah and book three. Four will be out later this year.
Her: Cool. I feel a trip to Barnes and Noble coming on.
Me: I thought you might.
Her: You don’t have to gloat.
Me: I’m not gloating...much.
Her: So, how are you liking your book?
Me: Meh...but, I’m not very far into it yet. It’s pretty cumbersome prose. Also, it’s depressing as hell.
Her: I know, right?
I bet you’re wondering if I finished that book, aren’t you? Oh, I finished it, all right. Every morose, depressing tear-jerking page. This is how it went for me.
Like a moron, I came to the end of this miserable book in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. So I’m reading, trying to be all discreet while wiping away my tears and blowing my nose, and I hear this little girl say:
“Daddy? Why dat yady cryin’?”
He glances up from his magazine, looks at me like I’m a freak and says, “I don’t know honey.”
So the little girl stares at me for a while, walks over and says, “Hey yady, why you cryin’?”
So I shut my book and say, “I’m reading this book, and it’s very sad.”
She wrinkled up her nose and said, “Then why you reading it?”
Good question, kid. I said, “Well, my friend read it and really liked and told me I needed to read it, too.”
She stared at me for a minute, put her hands on her hips and said, “Your friend is mean!”
So there you have it – out of the mouths of babes. Literary fiction is mean!
I know there's great literary fiction out there. I'm sure it's probably not all gut-wrenchingly sad. And I'm equally sure that, Margaret Atwood aside, I'll be reaching for genre fiction 99% of the time.
Kirsti, Tess and Lynn are all sharing their takes on literary vs. genre fiction. Click on their names to see what they have to say. :)