What are we to make of literary fiction in the last few years? It is indeed agented and published, but the market certainly trends toward genre fiction, with literary titles often dying a quiet death on the midlist. With the recent passing of John Updike, have we seen the last of contemporary literary giants? The answer is a resounding “No!”
Authors of literary fiction are, by nature, patient men and women whose writing stems from constant observation. They are self-styled sociologists who cannot rush their study of character, place, custom, or motive. They usually put in a lengthy apprenticeship while writing short fiction for literary journals, honing their craft as they continue to chart the undercurrents of society.
Regrettably, many readers regard writers of literary fiction as pretentious, cerebral, and aloof, men and women hoping to win a Pultizer or the National Book Award. Allegedly, these writers have groupies and walk down the street like Tom Wolfe, dressed in a white linen suit, scarf, and felt hat. Many call literary fiction highbrow or esoteric, with an accent on complicated syntax or intellectual themes. Stereotypes may exist, but consider Papa Hemingway and his short sentences, spare adjectives, and staccato delivery of a story—a style that is deceptively simple. He was a hunter and a fisherman who could sit in the Florida Keys and knock back seventeen daiquiris in a row. Many literary titles do indeed eventually attain the status of cult fiction.
Literary fiction will never die because it tells us who we are. Granted, style and theme may at times be elevated, but literary fiction is a mirror in which the reader can glimpse herself, her family, her job, her world. At times, the reflection is disquieting, even painful. Perhaps it takes a courageous reader to undertake such self-examination. If this is true, it only underscores the fact that we need literary fiction now more than ever.
About This Website
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
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding