June 01, 2005
Mainstream? Literary? Genre Short Stories? Huh??
What is the difference between Mainstream / Literary and Genre Short Stories?
Editor's Note: Both MJ Rose and Angela give their opinion on this week's question.
I bet you'll find that each editor and writer has a different opinion about the definition of each.
Literary would, in my opinion, be a higher caliber of writing... but usually not preferred by your average reader. Most people like a fast, easy, entertaining read while the minority prefer literary works that use words and phrases to imply meaning to the reader without stating the author's meaning in clear, easy-to-interpret terms.
Genre short stories can serve either audience depending, of course, on whether the story is literary or not.
There are only a few literary authors I like to read (M.J. Rose is my favorite - and that's not just because she's my friend). When an author gets too literary and I find myself interpreting more than reading, I get bored really fast. (Sometimes I joke that literary authors just have bigger thesauruses).
I'm often busy and when I do relax, I get interrupted a LOT. So, I prefer mainstream titles - suspense and romance titles. I can just read them and not really have to think while doing so. I also read children's historical fiction. When I find a good one, I have our 12- an 14-year-old children read it, too.
Now, there's more information than you wanted to know!
I loved Angela's answer - but even I am not considered "literary." I'm pretty much the literary end of commercial. Talk about parsing. I don't read short stories but its pretty much this:
Literary fiction is character driven and conotes a certain attention to the writing itself. Commercial or genre fiction is plot driven and while there is excellent writing in commercial or genre fiction, that's not its selling point.
It's a big argument really. A lot of literary writers use plots, a lot of commerical writers can write one helluva georgeous sentence.
Basically, as Angela said, it's in the eye of the beholder/reader/critic. Get a copy of the New Yorker magazine. Those short stories are literary. Get a copy of Alfred Hitchock magazine. Those are genre.
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