You know the ones...
...the ones who turn their noses down at any fiction not classed as 'literary'. They really piss me off.
What is 'literary fiction' anyway?
According to The Free Dictionary.com by Farlex literary fiction is -
Literary fiction is a term that has come into common usage since around 1970, principally to distinguish 'serious' fiction (that is, work with claims to literary merit) from the many types of genre fiction and popular fiction. In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character, whereas mainstream commercial fiction (the 'pageturner') focuses more on narrative and plot.What distinguishes literary fiction from other genres is subjective, and as in other artistic media, genres may overlap. Literary fiction is generally characterized as distinctive based on its content and style.
The key thing for me here is the last paragraph. "What distinguishes literary fiction from other genres is subjective...". When it comes to anything artistic, I sometimes can't believe that people actually get paid to be critics. Because in the end, it all comes down to personal taste, and just because a piece of art, or a work of fiction, isn't what they consider, based on their perceptions (which have been shaped by the experiences of their life), to be 'good', then who are they to look down on me for liking it.
Book Snobs are the people who think that, just because it's classed as 'literary fiction', it is automatically better, and of higher quality, than other genres of fiction. And that because they read 'literary fiction' they are automatically better than someone who reads other genres of fiction. Book Snobs are the people who won't even consider a book if it's located within the General Fiction section, or heaven forbid!, the Fantasy section.
I like to consider myself a Book Whore. I'll read anything, written by anyone, at any time. For a long time I turned my nose up at Fantasy. Not because I'm a Book Snob, but because I was scared. Scared that I would catch an infectious disease that would require me to start reading every book in a never-ending saga because, as inevitably happens, you take that first hit, and you just want more!
Thankfully, with a little help from my Fill-In friends, and, my personal inspiration, Stephanie Plum, I have been able to par-take of the Fantasy genre without succumbing totally to it's charming intoxications.
Unless you consider Harry Potter to be Fantasy. In which case I'm in the grips of a full-blown addiction, with no signs of stopping my consumption until the books fall apart from having read them each more than 100 times!
Which brings me back to the problem with Book Snobs. If distinguishing 'literary fiction' from other genres is subjective, then it's really hard to class a book correctly. As is the case of Harry Potter, which has been classed as everything from general fiction to fantasy to juvenile and young adult fiction. Many labels for one story.
When I worked in the Chain Bookstore this was made crystal clear to me by the way the Category Managers were constantly changing the subject categories of books. One day it's Literary Fiction, the next day you're moving it over to General, and in the case of one book, it went from True Crime one day to Literary Fiction overnight!
A quick search on Borders.com.au brings up 109,567 listings in the General & Literary Fiction section. At AngusRobertson.com.au it's 117,509. At Dymocks.com.au they list 8 books under the category Literary Fiction. So, I ask again, what is 'literary fiction' anyway?
All I know is, I've read books from almost every fiction genre there is. There are some books classed as General Fiction, or Chick Lit (a term which I DESPISE!), that could easily make the jump to literary fiction, and plenty of books that could be knocked down a peg or two to General Fiction.
A perfect example of this is a book called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (which I got for my birthday and have yet to read...it's rather long so requires a large time commitment). When this book first arrived in the Chain Bookstore I worked for it was classed as True Crime. It's now travelled over to Literary Fiction, as it's not technically an auto-biography, it's just semi-autobiographical. So it's made the leap. Compare that to James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, touted by Oprah, lauded as a gripping auto-biography, which turned out to be largely fiction and highly embellished truth. It was semi-autobiographical. By all rights, it really should have been pushed over to Literary Fiction. But in the Biography section it stays!
SO, what I'm saying is, Book Snob, don't look down on me because you think the books you read are better than the ones I read, which makes you think you're smarter than me... I read Perfume and it SUCKED! Give me Stephanie Plum any day!
What kind of 'Snobs' piss you off? Food Snobs?.....Music Snobs?.....Shire Snobs?(If you live in Sydney you'll know who I mean!).....Jeans Snobs?(I really hate those Jeans Snobs...you know, the ones who won't wear a pair that cost less than $100...ugh!)