A romance reader bites back

I came across a wonderfully sardonic description of some of the many formulas used in modern literary fiction, written by a fan of another genre that has been much abused for being formulaic, namely romance. If you didn’t think there were any formulas behind literary fiction, think again. Here is the full article: Guidelines for Writing Literary Fiction.

I especially like the last bit:
"On completing the book, the reader should have a satisfied feeling of accomplishment. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is value. He or she will be able to say he enjoyed the book, but will probably not be able to explain why without reading a review. He or she can feel fully satisfied in recommending it to a book club."

I, of course, explore my feelings about books, and not just literary fiction, by writing reviews.

So, have you read a piece of modern literary fiction that didn’t follow any of those formulas? I know there must be some, but most of what I have read in the genre lately has included one or, usually, more of the formulas in the list.


Maxine said…
Seems a bit patronising, to me! I like writing reviews, and then reading other people's reviews to see their take. But I don't need to read someone else's review to understand a piece of literary fiction. A technical work, now, maybe, but if I need to have fiction explained to me then it hasn't worked (for me). May mean I am stupid, but the point of fiction is that it only works if it works for that reader (to me).
Bibliophile said…
That's just the point. She's writing in the same patronizing tone and using the same generalizations that others have written about romance (and other genres that are considered less than ideal literature), and trying (convincingly, I think) to show by satire that all literarure is formulaic to some extent. It's just that there seems to be a taboo against drawing attention to it when it comes to literary fiction.

A someone who enjoys reading both romances and literary fiction, I enjoyed finally seeing that someone was ready to bite back.

Like you, I enjoy reading other people's reviews to compare with my own opinions, and it has happened that a review I read has made me think about a book in a new way, but I do not ever let anyone tell me what to think about a book any more.

As to that last bit I quoted, sadly I know people like the type she is describing. I used to be a bit like it myself. If the world thought a book was great, I thought so too - after all, all those people couldn't be wrong, could they? Fortunately this changed and I now make up my own mind.

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