Well, actually, crisis might be stretching things a bit as the first draft has only just now lurched past the 10,000 word barrier like a marathon runner that smokes 40 a day – a mere foetus of a novel, with no identity at all yet to speak of. But, the question of identity did occur to me this week, prompted by a question Kirsty Wark posed to Ian McEwan in this weeks book review show. The question was about literary fiction and did he consider his work to be in that category.
Now, I’ve heard the term, but what does it actually mean? A lot of the publishers in Writers & Artists Yearbook seem to contrast it with commercial fiction, but doesn’t this suggest that would make it non-commercial? Whose going to write that? And wouldn’t that then include all the unsuccessful novels languishing in the EPub world as well?
I’ve also heard it described as the sort of book used in literature classes at school and uni. Let me see (he says dredging back ancient memories of ‘O’ level English). That would include Chaucer’s ‘The Nuns Priests Tale’, Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’, Dickens’ ‘A tale of Two Cities, Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ and H.G.Wells ‘A History of Mr Polly’. Now, while I might wish I hadn’t been made to read all of them, they don’t seem to have much else in common – and if they are all considered literary fiction, were they always in this category? I mean, Dickens was widely read in his day as a popular novelist. So what’s this category all about?
Why am I bothered? Ah yes, the identity crisis. I’m beginning to suspect that the novel I’m writing isn’t falling into a neat genre category. Yes, it does have elements of fantasy, BUT, all the elements I’m including are actually practised by occultists and shaman today. It also has (or will have) demonstrations of occult theory in practise woven into the storylines, hidden for those who know about such things to discover. The work will just as much be about a persons development through magical means in overcoming their mental limitations such as fear and anxiety as it is about fantasy.
Perhaps the best I can do is call it contemporary fiction, but this sounds so bland.
What do you think? What do you know about what makes literary fiction, literary fiction? all ideas appreciated…