Friday, September 18, 2009

Cult Fiction and Genre

It might be argued that most cult fiction over the years has been literary fiction. Catch-22, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Confederacy of Dunces are most decidedly literary fiction.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Doors of Perception, The Teachings of Don Juan, and On the Road are prime examples of pop culture/counterculture novels. The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical in nature. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is clearly a fantasy, as are the novels of J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis. (To say that Tolkein and Lewis have a cult following would be a severe understatement.) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is science fiction, as are the works of Bradbury, Asimov, and Clarke. The novels of Vonnegut have cross-genre appeal, and while they are regarded as primarily literary fiction, a strong case could be made that Vonnegut’s works are sci-fi. Indeed, he was initially regarded as a science fiction writer after the publication of his first major novel, The Sirens of Titan. The Celestine Prophecy is New Age/metaphysical fiction. Shoeless Joe occupies that strange offshoot of fantasy called magical realism.

Readers have eclectic tastes, and ultimately the question of genre is determined more by a reader than by the literary marketplace. Readers of any genre may discover a protagonist's passion, idealism, hidden truths, revelations, wanderlust, prophecies, and roads less traveled. Perhaps the reason that literary fiction is the category into which most cult fiction falls is because the goal of such fiction is to diagnose and chronicle the breadth and width of an entire generation. In so doing, writers use idiosyncratic characters and backwater settings (Faulkner is a prime example), hooking the reader and making him ask the questions, “Has the protagonist found the truth? Is this where reality has been lurking all along?” That having been said, don’t discount a book in any genre from prompting its reader to ask the very same questions.

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Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
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Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
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