Monday, November 15, 2010

Literary vs. Popular Fiction: Mark Brendle Explains

I've been thinking about collecting different explanations of the difference between literary fiction or "high literature" and popular fiction and posting them to this blog as a reference. (Yes, I'm taking a class right now.) While looking up the concept of "thinning" in fiction, I came across a blog post at Barnes and Noble by Mark Brendle. While reviewing the work of Richard Russo, Brendle also gives a clear explanation of literary vs. popular fiction:
There’s no set-in-stone definition of what exactly separates “high literature” from “pop fiction.” But many would agree that the differentiation does exist and that it is an important distinction to make. To be very brief, so called high literature is “high” because it seeks to reveal some truth about the human condition. Its characters, plot and setting are all working to achieve some kind of epiphany on a greater level, to have some kind of social or psychological consciousness and to present the reader with existential issues of his or her own existence. It is “involved” rather than “escapist.” High literature typically deals with the form or style of writing as well, pushing the boundaries of the acceptable narrative to ever greater and innovative extremes. The purpose of narrative technique in high literature is to complement the themes of the book, whereas in pop fiction the narrative technique is designed to easily and quickly convey ideas to the reader.
You could learn a bit from reading his entire post, " * Walking a Thin Line: The Work of Richard Russo." Very thoughtful and informative.

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