Is It Literary or Entertainment?

Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by A.M.P., Apr 30, 2015.

  1. Kingtype

    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    After much debate in the writing world and on this site about literary vs entertainment.

    I've decided to settle it by writing a novel on the subject!
    ---

    Preston Lit who is the most literary of literary critics and master of the English language. He considers all genre fiction trite and trash. He is a highly education in multiple languages,
    philosophy and of course the art of writing.

    When he's not looking out his window and drinking tea, thinking about how his mother was mean to him. He's writing long articles on the death of the novel and literary fiction.

    Oh yeah Preston is British to just because.

    But then something magical happens or some crap and Preston is transported into the most generic cliched genre book worlds.

    A high fantasy, a sci-fi that doesn't make any sense breaks all laws of physics but has some neat looking space ships, a boring Superman rip off superhero story, hardboiled detective novel in the 40s, A story where a vampire must find true love and of course an erotica about the babysitter....who is totally and always is eighteen or nineteen (Says it on the back of the book)

    Preston must make allies with the things he once hated from a big bearded wizard to men in tights to a detective in a fedora who always gets his man, a sexy vampire and many more.

    Of course the erotica will be used as a device for telling more about Preston's issues with his mother.

    So will Preston finally come to respect genre fiction or will the sheer insanity and silliness of it make him despise all of speculative fiction even more or will his angst about it all be the death of him!

    ---

    *Sips tea*

    Yes it surely to be my finest literary speculative genre super ultra meg magnum opus masterpiece.
     
  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Calling something literary is a slippery slope. I mean you can dismiss the obvious writers like - Patterson is out. Lol. But when you get to writer's like Donna Tartt and Tom Wolfe isn't it a matter of taste? Those who don't like Wolfe's bombastic style will dismiss him and those who do will think he's worthy. Plus it's a bit hypocritical to say you're not literary because you didn't do this or that when that's kinda the set up for genre - Adhere to our formula.
     
  3. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think things like this can be in danger of only ever listening to critics that share your opinions. You are really limiting your perspective on things when you only listen to people you agree with, you should (if you really bother with book critics outside of Amazon and Goodreads at all) listen to all points of view - and the better critics are the ones who really tried to understand a novel, and talk about it in depth.

    I'm not slamming people's opinions on either Amazon or Goodreads here, but most of them are not professional critics. So do you value an informed opinion or an opinion based on subjective emotional responses?
     
  4. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it just me, or is writing about an orphaned child who goes from home to home, rather cliche?
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2015
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  5. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Maybe not when she started. Didn't she say - she started this 17 years ago. I'm not up on Potter though so I have no idea when Rowling got the ball rolling.
     
  6. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Way before Potter. I mean, it's something that comes up in Jane Eyre, and that was 1800-and-who-knows-when.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    The subject matter can't really be cliche in and of itself. It's down to the execution. A great writer can make something fresh and engaging from a story line no matter how many times it has been done.
     
  8. daemon

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That concept is not specific enough for the definition of "cliché" to apply.
     
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  9. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah it's an old plot, and one that seems to be continually used to rack up literary points.

    Probably Lemex will have much better insights, but I can only imagine this sort of scheme provides a sure fire path to the following


    1: ultra realism. After war, what seems more real than a lost child with no one to look out for him?

    2. Children. While it's easy to judge a 250 lb skinhead, it's not so easy to judge a young boy who doesn't even know the face of his mother.

    3. Easy adventure. How do you give your MC a journey and provide him with interesting characters, without resorting to absurd and or improbable scenarios? Make the kid an orphan, and put him in 20 different homes. Make each home unstable and loaded with weird and often bad characters. I personally have no idea how realistic this is, but this type of story has become so popular I assume many orphans do go home to home. In short, no one's going to question the realism of an orphan story.

    4. Easy growth. Meeting all those messed up characters, somehow the protagonist learns to accept him or herself and others.
     
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  10. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes it is. Orphan child goes from home to home until he learns to find himself. The key plot is that he goes from home to home. It's not even really a plot, but rather a convenient vehicle for literary considerations, like characterization and theme.
     
  11. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    For some reason all I can think of right now is that MR James short story, Lost Hearts.

    I agree with you, completely, and I think it's also because of the buldingsroman aspect. Especially with Potter, that seems the series core appeal, as a way for people to experience a more interesting childhood than the one they had/are having.

    It is a series that matures. The characters get older, they have their first crushes, they have their ups and downs, they learn things and use the things they learn to beat the bad guys, and they learn to overcome their own fears and limitations through brave acts and acts of cleverness. But, as you say, it's easy for them, because it's in a by comparison safe world of fiction when compared to the random chaos of real life.

    I honestly do think Potter became so popular with adults because it's the childhood they wished they had. It hardly seems an accident that Potter also takes place (if you remove all the magical hockham) in a upperclass British boarding school - and yes, there does seem to be a fascination with the British ruling class that many people around the world have for some reason. Think about it, snobbery (mudbloods), another, secret world only a few can enter and experience and have affect them with its own strange rules and customs, so different from the world experienced by people of the working classes. It's the aristocracy in all but name.

    I know which one I'd rather have, a childhood in Hogwarts, a magical castle where everyone can do almost anything they wish and you can go on cool adventures; or the childhood of dreary reality: sitting SATs exams, GCSEs, and having to deal with the consequences of entering the boring adult world. By comparison, the world of Potter is idyllic.
     
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  12. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I also feel I should add to this thread, saying just because something is literary does not mean it's good and vice versa. Despite some elevated references in Wodehouse, I would not say he is a 'literary' writer at all, and he's still read, because he's good - he's hilarious! Dickens is rather literary, and personally I don't care for most of his output; I find him overrated quite frankly.
     
  13. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    @Lemex - Though mean-spirited, I like to make fun of Dickens and his over-use of the scrawny street urchin child with no home. I remember playing Dragon's Dogma and made a character who looked exactly like Oliver Twist (even called him that) and made up a tragic backstory for him. :p :D I couldn't make him Tiny Tim, though, because there was no 'gimpy leg' option, just the closed eyes option (so, blind Tiny Tim Twist? xD)

    On-Topic: I personally believe in the notion of 'live and let live'. Liking or not liking literary/entertainment novels doesn't make you a bad person. I, a college grad who read The Scarlet Letter am now reading casual entertainment books why? Because sometimes I just need a world to escape in. I'd only judge it poorly if the writing style is crap and the characters are flatter than a deck of playing cards.

    It's fine to not like entertainment fiction, but it's not fine to look down on and dismiss those who do like they're beneath you ('you' in general, not 'you' as in you, Lemex). The opposite is equally true. Yes, people like literary fiction, that doesn't make them 'snobby elitists'. I like both literary and entertainment fiction.

    @123456789 - The concept of 'orphaned kid goes on an adventure' isn't new. It's quite old, actually. It's also an easy way of explaining why their otherwise living parents would be OK with their kid going on a dangerous adventure.
     
  14. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That's the thing I find about Dickens. He's sickeningly sentimental, and overly reliant on his own tropes. Especially when he's writing a satire. I mean, it's been a long time since I've read Silas Marner, but I don't remember the town George Eliot wrote about was anything near as over the top as Coketown. Coketown was Blake's 'Dark Satanic Mills' in every way.

    This is true. I also don't think it's very wise, or polite, or even very clever to dismiss literary fiction because it's 'elitist', 'snobby' or 'pretentious'. Or even just because it's different. I'm a fan of Stephen King, but I'm also a fan of Virgil, hence my little post-tag quoting The Aeneid. I have no illusions about King, he's not a very dignified or complicated writer, but nor do I have any illusions about Virgil either. Virgil is difficult, and you need some prior knowledge before you can start to properly appreciate him.

    I didn't understand everything in Milton's Paradise Lost, frankly a lot of it went completely over my head. Nor do think I will ever properly understand Dante's Paradiso, mostly because I'm not a Christian or a bible scholar. I find the same thing when I started reading Akutagawa's short stories - all these references to Japanese culture and history and Shinto/Buddhist philosophy, and I didn't either pick up on them or flat-out didn't understand them. Just because I didn't understand it, though, didn't mean I gave up on it as 'too difficult' and 'pretentious rubbish', because something kept me going. I don't know what that something was, but it was something.

    I can tell you one thing, now that I have a working knowledge of Classics, a lot more English poetry makes perfect sense to me. I'm enriched by the experience of rereading Keats, in a way I just would never have had the first time around. Shakespeare makes so much more sense now. Even things like Dune, the House of Atredei, or whatever they are called, is literally a name taken straight out of The Oresteia, and that means something. A bridge has been built. Same with Joyce too, you'll never properly appreciate Ulysses without knowing Homer. It's impossible. It's not just Classics either, without knowing about linguistics, you wouldn't also understand what Joyce was trying to do - and so your opinion on how it actually is in terms of good work isn't going to be the same as someone who does understand it. You'll not understand Death in Venice by Thomas Mann if you don't know Nietzsche and Freud - you just can't. So I don't see why someone who does understand Death in Venice and the Ubermench, and psycho-sexual psychology should respect the opinion of someone who doesn't, and doesn't care to. They don't know what they are talking about after all.

    Now I didn't need to go back and reread Keats. I didn't need to study Classics. I could just be happy with my novels as stories, and read simple fictions where the plot goes from beginning to end, and leave the more difficult, complicated stuff to other people. But during the course of my degree I was exposed to a lot of 'Great literature', and you get more used to it - it becomes less and less confusing, difficult, and intimidating the more work you put in to understanding it. I found that 'Great literature' is not just a place to find 'meaning' and then it's all well and good, move on to something else, that meaning actually has real meaning you really can use.

    When I first read Nineteen Eighty-Four it shaped the way I saw the world. The novel is always in the back of my head. I read Johnny Got his Gun, and the same thing happened, they changed my politics. Poets like Keats, Frost, and Burns make me 'feel' my childhood country home in a way I wouldn't have before - and make me appreciate it more. Shakespeare makes me appreciate living in England - and to slightly misquote Orwell 'No matter how much you hate it and laugh at it, a part of you will always love it' - and even Beowulf and the Elder Edda are works that voice the North Atlantic. When I read either, or other Anglo Saxon poems, I can almost hear the North Sea in my head, almost feel the winter chill of winds from Iceland, even on warm days. I love Homer and Virgil, because I know Greece and Italy well. When I first read Dante, and it gave me the key to Epic Poetry, an entire tradition of writing I thought was locked to me, but why I love Dante so much I can't quite explain - some things just cannot be expressed in words.

    Great literature lives with you, and makes you grow as a person. If you can get that from even Stephen King then you have found something special. But honestly, and this might seem like snobbery but I honestly don't care at all, I can't imagine finding something as powerful in King (a writer I really like) as I find in Homer. That's not to suggest it isn't in King, I just can't see it there - some things just don't have that essential 'power', or 'quality'. Whatever you want to call it.

    Sorry, bit of a rant there. :3
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  15. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's what I like about you Lemex.

    Now I'm off to read Dragonspell for a personal review I've planned for it. Might be a thing I'll do in the future: review books as a personal hobby, maybe even post some in my blog?

    And for reasons not related to the fact that I just mentioned Dragonspell, I shall now exunt on King Richard III's horse. :p
     
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  16. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This post should be stickied to WF. It's a totally correct answer, but by the very nature of the post, you can't expect everyone to get it.
     
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  17. Kingtype

    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I concur with Lemex.

    It is not a wise choice to not read literary fiction because you think its snobbish, you do yourself a great service by reading the classics. In fact anybody who only who reads genre fiction I'm sure would be surprised to find how much influence literary fiction has on it.

    I mean I love both and both have meaning to me in different ways but I've always been very middle of the road on this subject. But you should read literary fiction, most of all if you want to write. It will really serve to improve your skill, most of all in the prose area.

    Anyway

    This long debate of literary and entertainment is kinda old. Just like how random topics explode in discussions of Religion. I think there are like three constants debates on this site, broadly speaking its like.

    I could be wrong of course and I'm totally simplifying it.

    But anybody else pick up on that?

    Literary fiction vs Genre fiction (or well arguments about what counts as literary and stuff). Which always ends in someone making a long rant in favor of one over the other or far to long walls of text that says the same stuff.

    Then there are the Religion and science debates which are such a muddy can of worms that even mentioning then can spark a debate. (Don't do it! I only mentioned it as an example, keep your guns holstered). But they've gotten down right brutal.

    Did I miss any?

    I swore there was another one that was like a trigger debate that gets everybody talking.
     
  18. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are four

    1: literary vs genre
    2: theism vs atheism (notice I did not say science)
    3. Equality vs feminism
    4. Writing method A vs writing method B (this encompasses drafting methods, tenses , "pantsing," self publishing, italics for thoughts, etc.)
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  19. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah, I walked into one of these once. Fuck-ing-hell.

    Fuck Anita Sarkeesian.
     
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  20. Kingtype

    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I thought about saying atheism to but for some reason I thought that wouldn't be the word but yeah religion vs atheism.

    My bad XD


    Civil forum War is hell
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
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  21. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

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    Where is the line and how do I cross?
     
  22. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Without having read the article you mentioned above, I'm prone to agree with whoever said that. It still amazes me that adults are reading that (and similar) stuff. It actually seems like we're living in a world where no one wants to leave childhood.
     
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  23. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've often found it's more good writing vs. the concept of anything being 'good writing' at all. Which has lead to some fucking weird claims when trying to despite the idea something is good or bad on it's own merits, and not merely a matter of taste.

    One idiot even said that Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is high art because it doesn't start with a car chase. Another said that James Joyce is a terrible writer because that one person didn't understand him straight away, and didn't bother to do the work at understanding him. I mean ... parlez vous francies?

    Fine, if all you want to read is easy, pop fiction then go ahead; read that stuff to your heart's content. Just don't get angry when people like me point out easy fiction is easy, and god forbid when you suggest it isn't even not that good or interesting when compared to fiction you really need to read more carefully.

    Or maybe this is the age of the death of art? Tracey Emin is a popular artist these days after all, so humanity might actually be f**ked.
     
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  24. SethLoki

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I dunno, @Tesoro I think the world has all sorts of folk in it. Yes some don't wish the leave their childhood, some may just want to be 'up' on what's going down. A very smart person I know only indulges in simple linear fiction and auto-bios. Their notion that dense writing layered with references is, in the round, pretentious, no matter who's written it. Others, myself included in that bunch, may want a little respite after overdosing on Goethe's Faust and Joyce's Ulysses. < I'm a absolute appreciator of the thought they put in to their work (allied with their talent).

    Some downtime I confess is spent consuming quicker reads; I can't do Harry Potter, just not that into the writing style; I break away at the mention of muggles. But His Dark Materials which is similarly fantastical—well that will have me read it right through and enjoy it.
     
  25. Aaron DC

    Aaron DC Contributing Member Contributor

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    Covers get me erry time. Erry time. Dem space ships o_O
     
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