Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA Discussion: Literary Fiction

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Armchair BEA Discussion: Genre Post: Literary Fiction

Armchair BEA (Emily) asked:

What books have you read this year that would fit into this category?

Sadly, I am not exactly sure what literary fiction is. Let me look it up.

Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that are claimed to hold literary merit. Despite the fact that all genres have works that are well written, those works are generally not considered literary fiction. To be considered literary, a work usually must be "critically acclaimed" and "serious".[1] In practice, works of literary fiction often are "complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas".[2]  - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Even sadder, I am still not sure what literary fiction is.

What Is Literary Fiction? (Novel Writing Help)

What Makes Literary Fiction Literary? (Nathan Bransford)

Okay, those helped to clarify a bit. I guess... Moving on.

Is there anything coming up that you're particularly excited about?

Well, I am going to start reading Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson next week. Based on the explanations in the posts above and a few of the book reviewers' comments below, I am going to go out on a limb and claim this book as literary fiction.

"I cannot recommend this book enough. It's nothing short of a genre-bending masterpiece - thoughtful and compelling, convoluted in plot but clear in resolve. If I had many lifetimes, I would make sure to read Life After Life in each." (Kevin Nguyen, Grantland )      

"An exercise in narrative gutsiness; a meditation on history, contingency, and free will; and the best new novel I've read this year." (Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine )

"An audacious, ambitious book that challenges notions of time, fate and free will, not to mention narrative plausibility...[Atkinson's] writing is funny and quirky and sharp and sad - calamity laced with humor - and full of quietly heroic characters who offer knowing Lorrie Moore-esque parenthetical asides...Atkinson's true genius is structure...Each version is entirely and equally credible." (Sarah Lyall, New York Times )

"A densely layered, century-sprawling work that is a formidable bid for the brass ring of the U.K.'s prestigious Man Booker Prize. Life After Life is a drama of failures and providential rebirths...High-concept premise...A deft and convincing portrayal of an English family's evolution across two world wars...Marvelous...Not only does she bring characters to life with enviable ease, she has an almost offhand knack for vivid scene-setting ...Her storytelling prowess is on fullest display in a gorgeous and nerve-racking novella-length chapter set during the Blitz ... It's spellbindingly done." (Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal )

What authors/novels would you recommend to someone new to the genre?

I'd recommend these, only to see what you'd say after reading them. I read them recently and I am not sure how I feel about them.

 An international best-seller with more than one million copies in print and a winner of France's Prix Goncourt, The Lover has been acclaimed by critics all over the world since its first publication in 1984. Was also adapted for film under same name, The Lover.

 Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award For Fiction
National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book

Are there any misconceptions or things that you'd like to clear up for people unfamiliar with literary fiction?

I am one of the unfamiliar. Save yourself. Look elsewhere. I cannot help you with misconceptions.

If you are one of the familiar, please let me know how you describe literary fiction.

What got you started into this kind of book?

Dumb luck? I read from most genres (though I don't read much in the way of horror or poetry) so I am sure that I have read some literary fiction at some point.

Based on someone's definition. Somewhere.

Um, yeah.

Name a novel that hasn't received a lot of buzz that definitely deserves it

Just kidding. Checking to see if you are still reading.


  1. Totally had to LOL at your last book and comment. Yup...I was still reading :)

  2. wow, good to see Marguerite Duras here, this is not usual. I read a few by her in my French years, loved her a lot

  3. Budda Attic is a book I want to read! Thanks for the RT. Happy Armchair Bea!

  4. I LOVED To Kill A A Mockingbird! I just wish I hadn't waited so long to read it!