Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Genre Fiction That Could Almost Be Literary

I was going to write a Book Talk today, seeing as it's been a while since I've written one, but instead I feel like being random. This blog is about anything, after all.

Before I begin I'll share something with you all: I'm wearing white after Labor Day *gasp* A white summer dress, because I didn't even know this was a supposed rule until a few years ago! Besides, the weather's gorgeous and soon it'll be cold and I'll spend my days in practically-pajama pants. I have a mild contrary-streak that makes me do things like open packages from the opposite side of "Tear Here" and put my toes on the edge of the line I'm supposed to stay behind on public transportation. I know... wild times, right?

But now, onto the topic: almost-literary genre fiction.

Books that tease the edge of conformity are my very favorite books of all. Rather than a "sweet" book or a "dark" book, I love books that combine elements to create something unique and unexpected. This isn't too difficult to find in classics and literary fiction, and I do love reading those (Charles Dickens, Amy Tan and Isabel Allende come to mind), but to me, there's something ambitious and powerful about authors who are able to do this in "genre" fiction. To take authors from completely different genres, Laura Kinsale, C.S. Friedman, Libba Bray, Judith Ivory and T.H. White to name a very few, blend aspects of dark and light, twisting things into ways I hadn't thought of; their stories are firmly genre fiction --romance or Young Adult or fantasy in these cases-- but the writing reaches deeper and gives me moments when I pause and set the book down for a moment from the sheer beauty of what I'd just read.

Whenever I read genre fiction, something inside me longs for more than a story that keeps the pages turning; I search for that spark of magic that makes my heart swell, amazed that something so profound has been woven so perfectly into genre fiction. It may be the same story, on a fundamental level, as many others, but the way it's told makes the story powerful and breathtaking, and ultimately new.

This is so difficult to find in bookstores. Maybe that's why I keep gravitating back to my old favorites. I want the excitement I love in romance or fantasy, but I want that little something extra that makes it a stunning work of fiction.

Naturally, being someone who enjoys reading this type of fiction, a few aspiring authors whose work I read or critique happen to write this kind of fiction. It saddens me that they're also the ones who seem to have the most difficult time querying. Are there really so few readers like me, who love that out-of-the-box style of writing? Unusual themes and a dark undertone balanced with unexpected moments of light? I guess it's just a mystery.


  1. I think I agree with you, but maybe you could give some examples of the books you love. I love beautiful writing with depth that makes me see the world in a different way. A new favorite of mine in my teaser tuesday I did today - Delirium. Loved the writing in The Sky is Everywhere.

  2. I feel this way about The Time Traveler's Wife, though I guess that didn't get classified as Genre-- even though it DEFINITELY has a sci-fi/fantasy element at its core! (I mean, Time Traveling is Time Traveling!)

    But the book is just so beautifully written, I have no trouble with the fact that it made it into the "literature" section of the bookstore.

  3. Hi Mary! I'll have to take a look at Delirium and The Sky is Everywhere. As for books I loved, Black Sun Rising for fantasy (even though it's science fiction it's very nearly fantasy), the Wheel of Time series for epic fantasy, A Great and Terrible Beauty (the entire trilogy) for young adult, and every single historical romance Laura Kinsale's ever written; those all fall under genre-fiction that's almost literary. :D

    Hi Amalia! Yes, I loved The Time Traveler's Wife too. Since you mentioned literary fiction I'll share one of my favorites: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Gorgeous writing although it's definitely not genre-fiction.

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