Genre vs. literary — and the gaping space between

E-Reads had a great post yesterday from Richard Curtis: “What Serious Writers Can Learn From Genre Comrades in Arms.” It was a great piece, originally written in 1990, and one that spoke particularly to me because I always wonder what’s in between those two camps.

I love genre fiction. Mysteries and Nora Roberts make up 90 percent of my fiction collection. I collect vintage kids’ mystery series. I’ll occasionally dip into fantasy or sci-fi. My stories, however, don’t really fall into a genre — they don’t have that distinctive element that each genre has, whether it’s a mystery or a romance…

But every time I run into writers who write literary fiction, I don’t feel like I fit there either. I don’t consider my stories shallow or commercial, but they’re just that — stories. I’m not trying to send a message. I’m not thinking about symbolism or metaphor or anything that’s a hallmark of “serious literature.” I want to tell a good story that engages readers. Exeter stories aren’t a beach read in the traditional sense. They’re not women’s fiction — I’ve got too many guys in main roles. I’ve never been able to categorize them.

Sometimes I think we do a disservice as both readers and writers by parceling the world into these two camps — genre and literary — and not leaving room for stories that are fiction without being a genre — fiction without being literature.



3 Comments on “Genre vs. literary — and the gaping space between”

  1. I’ll read the article as soon as I get a chance, but wow, the title is really a turnoff. Snobby? Only literary writers are serious? Genre writers are just goofing around and aren’t to be taken seriously? Okay, genres do lend themselves to hack writing, and much of it isn’t meant to do anything but entertain, but there are many genre writers whose work rises above the pack and is judged worthy of inclusion in “serious” literature. Some of it is even included in the rollcall of classics. I’m not so sure it’s a question “in between” as it is of perception and a dose of snobbery.

    1. Actually, the blog is a really good poke at the “serious” writers, suggesting they learn from what genre writers bring to the table. It’s definitely the work of somebody who appreciates genre writing.

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