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Friday, April 09, 2010

Thoughts On Other People's Thoughts On Fiction

The Women's Colony is abuzz today with the literature vs. popular fiction debate. Go read it there. I refuse to paraphrase the gifted writers over there. I read early, I'm sure the comments have gotten better, but a few early ones caught me:

The writer of that letter clearly doesn't know what she's talking about. If she did, she wouldn't have failed to include the REAL hack...er...I mean, writer, Stephanie Meyer.

Here's my letter to you in response:

Dear Professor Mary,

Fail that student.

Love,
~aaryn

Let's ignore the dropping for a sec. I really respect Aaryn's writing. She makes me laugh, she makes me mad, she makes me think, and her daughter is just beautiful! And I agree with her as regards sub-par writing being touted as themostamazingbookseverohmygodyouguyssparklyvampires! Here's the thing, I've read the Twilight books. I didn't pick a team, but I was entertained. I have critiques in abundance, but that's not my point today.

This commenter made an excellent point.

I just checked back to see if the course was Contemporary Literature as this would give you reason to fire Aaryn's email straight back at your student but as it was Contemporary Fiction .... well, there may be some validity in what your student says. Populist doesn't necessarily mean poor writing. Although I still shudder at Donna Tartt's 'Secret Garden' and think Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth' may be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes..
The course description didn't say Popular Fiction. It said Contemporary Fiction. This commenter summed it up nicely.

Oh, good grief. Isn't the point of education to broaden yourself? Omission from a college syllabus of contemporary writers isn't a slam on King, Rowling, et al. I personally would be pissed if I were paying for a lit course that turned out to cover books II could buy on the paperback rack at the supermarket.
So on to my stance. I read. A lot. I read magazines, blogs, a broad range of novels, even the occasional dip into nonfiction. Here's what I like. I like stories, good ones, even if I've seen the basic structure before. I like characters. If I like the characters, and the writing style isn't dumbed down (which can be a problem in a lot of "popular fiction"), I'll read it.

So, here's me, lifelong reader, self professed lover of character and story, sitting on a pricey, elitist college education, and I decided to turn my hand to writing a story of my own. Guess what? It's very likely going to be a single title contemporary romance. Hopefully, a smart one with likable characters and a literate writing style, but a paperback beach read nonetheless.

Will it ever be published? Hope so. Will it ever be on a college syllabus? Probably not. And that's okay. Let's expand our horizons and grow with Contemporary Fiction, but let's not discount Popular Fiction indiscriminately.

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