Friday, April 20, 2012

How I'm Learning to Love Literary Fiction

Remember when I posted about that {censored} term "literary fiction"?  I'll admit, I was a bit snarky about the whole concept.  After I wrote that post, I found I couldn't stop chewing on the question of literary fiction.  I had also entered a phase of submitting and resubmitting my short stories to various markets.  And I happened to have a big stack of gift cards to Powell's Books courtesy of the Teacher as Writer workshop through Wordstock.  (Sidebar - if you ever get a chance to participate in that workshop, take it!  Best writing workshop I've ever been in!)  Anyway, I decided to pick up a copy of Tin House, a Portland-based publication focusing on literary fiction that has developed a terrific reputation.  And I learned something.

Not everything in it was my cup of tea, but there was no denying the power of the language, the way the authors used words and imagery to fresh and evocative effect.  I found myself savoring phrases, lingering over images, in a way that I just don't do with a "page turner."  My favorite pieces draped a curtain of tension over the story from the very beginning, and allowed the tension to hang in the air while the story proceeded forward in careful, contemplative fashion.  I was reminded what a difference a well-chosen word or phrase or image can make, how the poetic element can transform a story.  Literary fiction chooses to shine a spotlight on those qualities.   My own writing could benefit if I spent a little more time wandering the world of literary fiction.

So, literary fiction, I offer a humble apology for my past snarking and now acknowledge your value in a too-rushed, Hollywood-driven world.  I shall visit you again.

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