[ExI] for fiction readers only

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Sun May 8 20:00:15 UTC 2016

On Sun, May 8, 2016 at 11:21 AM, William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com>
> Well, lil ol me got a letter published in the NYT Book Review.  It was in
response to an article about what is wrong with modern fiction.  Here it is:
> Two words:  happy endings.
> People buy romance novels, sci-fi and other genres because they know they
will encounter no unhappiness, no depression, no angst, no killings, no
family conflict, etc. the way they will in all of modern fiction.  They
know what to expect from these books, many of which are formulaic, but many
display really good writing too
> It's as if there were some rule that literature cannot have happy endings
because those other genres do and it would taint a true work of literature
to have them.
> And readers know this.
> Similarly, writers know that they must include racism and feminism and
the evils of capitalism because without them their books would be
politically incorrect.
> And readers know this too.
> So readers don't buy too many books they suspect are 'literature'.
> Have you noticed that?
> bill w
> (a bit of exaggeration in the first paragraph, and I omitted modern
fictions obsession with LGBT issues)

Gross oversimplifications all around, in my view. You've chosen a subset of
each genre -- and literary fiction and modernist fiction can be considered
genres here -- and then generalized from them to all members of each genre
and to why people read them.

There's another problem too. Maybe readers of literary fiction, modernist
fiction also enjoy various other genre fiction. I hesitate to use myself as
an example, but I enjoy the work of Thomas Bernard (don't read him; I'm
guessing you'll despise his work) and that of Cixin Liu. I'm not the only
example of such a reader too. I haven't done any surveys, so I'm not sure
how big this class of readers is. (And I'm not even bringing up writers who
cross genre boundaries or how genres are sort of arbitrary, often more to
do with tastes and marketing than anything essential to the works. Nothing
prevents one from writing a literary Western or a postmodernist space
opera. That such things sell means there are people who will buy them and
presumably read them.:)

We've already discussed the happy endings issue before. This isn't anything
genre-specific about this. Yes, there's probably a tendency toward mixed or
unhappy endings in modernist fiction, but there are counterexamples.
(Literary fiction is a wider genre and harder to map out. Do we include the
works of Jane Austen? If so, happy endings abound.) Likewise, there are
plenty of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, espionage, etc. novels with
unhappy or mixed endings. I don't believe endings are genre-specific --
save in trivial cases.


  Sample my Kindle books via:
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