May We Suggest A Brief Navel Gazing Respite?

March 14th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We went into this article on the, uh, death of first fiction filled with appropriate sympathy. Truly. For many reasons, not all of which are selfish, we want authors to succeed and write and publish. We want lots of variety when it comes to reading choices. We need appropriate material for dark and stormy moods; we need just the right thing for first day of spring moods.

Let us suggest that today’s literary fiction doesn’t sell at blockbuster levels because it doesn’t speak to mass audiences. We remain perplexed by the continued success of The Da Vinci Code, but the bottom line, as near as we can tell, is that there is something in the story that touches readers. If literary fiction isn’t achieving that goal, then there are two options (actually, there are probably more, but we are lazy):

  1. Start telling better stories
  2. Accept that today’s literary fiction is niche material, and treat it as such

Blaming television, blaming lack of reviews, blaming distribution, blaming reduced literacy…these are buck passers. Reading is truly a subjective process. The reader is seduced in many ways, but at the end, if the story moves the reader, they will tell someone (if the author is lucky, the happy reader is also capable of blogging the hell out of their joy).

It is our firm belief that you write what you write. We once met a woman who writes feminist nature stories. No clue what that might be, but, really, it’s not our problem. She is happy with her work. Romance authors are happy with their work. They choose to write these stories; if it wasn’t a choice, the stories would be inauthentic. Literary authors, we believe, write what pleases them. Not every genre, every story, every voice will appeal to every reader.

We want first fiction to succeed, but what is success? Are expectations realistic? And is it possible for the literary world to consider more than the obvious suspects? There are many reasons why literary fiction has low sales numbers…including the work itself.

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