Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something that tastes good can also be good for you

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I recently read a compelling article from The New Yorker about whether or not there is still a clear distinction between commercial fiction and literary fiction.  The author argues that “for the longest time, there was little ambiguity between literary fiction and genre fiction: one was good for you, one simply tasted good.” And that distinction is now starting to collapse: “the presumed superiority of one type of book over another no longer passes unquestioned.”

So what distinguishes commercial or genre fiction from literary fiction, anyway?

Literary fiction is “elegantly written, lyrical, and layered" and focuses on creating "introspective, in-depth character studies" of "interesting, complex and developed" characters. (Source) Purportedly of less literary value, commercial fiction relies on formula, convention and uncomplicated prose.   Whereas literary fiction is character-driven, commercial fiction is plot-driven. Or so they say.

Whether or not there is an abiding distinction between the two, I simply don’t care.  I read both kinds.  As discussed in a podcast I regularly listen to, it is a question of quality, not taxonomy.  There can be art in both the pulpy and the highfalutin; there is brilliance in both literary fiction and genre fiction. It doesn’t matter if a novel appeals to lowbrow or highbrow tastes, I will read it as long as it is absorbing and written well. 

What keeps me absorbed nowadays is the third book in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice of Fire dystopic science fiction series. Prior to that, I was engrossed in a collection of essays on political and cultural topics written by Christopher Hitchens. And before reading those essays I went from a chic lit take on the life of a former US First Lady to E.M. Forster's masterpiece about the British Raj to Jonathan Safran Foer’s nonfiction account of factory farming to a Stephen King horror classic to Mark Twain’s adventures through the Wild West in the 1860s.  There is something truly satisfying in sampling all categories and genres of the written word. Shifting from fiction to nonfiction, from one genre to another and from commercial to literary fiction gives me different ways of looking at the world.

It must be that something that tastes good can also be good for you.


eks said...

gusto ko sanang i-kwento ang mga binabasa ko, kaso, naalala ko na hindi pa ako tapos sa bio ni steve jobs na noon pang december sa akin. hahahaha.

Angeli said...

December mo inumpisahan, hindi mo pa tapos?! hahahah.. siguro one page per night ang binabasa mo. :)

eks said...

december 24 ko sinimulan basahin at naka-ilang chapters din ako nun. kaso, nung december 25, 8:32am (hehehe), nakipag-break sa akin yung nagbigay sa akin ng libro. kaya mula nun... hindi ko na siya mabuksan pa ulit. hahaha.

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