And of course, having said I expect the blog to be quiet, I post again.
The particular point which caught my interest was this:
“in genre novels, characters have to be terribly attentive to the effect they are having on the reader. Central protagonists have to be sympathetic, and their trajectory must be towards enlightenment and empowerment.”
I’m very interested in the border between literary fiction and genre, for all sorts of reasons, and this seems to strike to the heart of the matter. Among other things, it explains why China Miéville’s books, with their unsympathetic protagonists and often grim conclusions are considered serious literature, whereas much other speculative fiction isn’t. However, it seems to me that this is a reversal of a clearer statement, not about the commonly observed genres, but about literary fiction itself:
“Literary fiction is a genre in which protagonists are unsympathetic and trajectories are not toward enlightenment or empowerment.”
Genres are defined by their common themes and effective rules. And at first blush, this seems like a pretty neat encapsulation of all of literary fiction. Certainly, it seems to trivialise it somewhat – “downer fiction” – , but what genre designation doesn’t?
Is there material in the canon of literary fiction that doesn’t fit into this genre designation?