Literature and fiction

It lately amazes me greatly how the two, literature and fiction, are always separated. As if one stands apart from the rest while deep inside it remains the same thing. To me that’s like making yeast dough and then turning it into daily pizza or elaborate cake. Deep down they are the same, are they not? Writers are the same, they write the same subjects, perhaps through different prism and decorations, but deep down there still are 7 basic plots and about 46 character types. Or 8 or 45 depending on who is putting the list together.

So why do they stand apart?

If I take it from my grave, I can see it on emotional perspective – in fiction, you seek for fun and one day reading experience while literature is something you take up if you want to feel accomplishment. Which is so wrong, given that both can equally piss you off and make you happy to stand on this earth.

For example.

Let’s take… (I’m so gonna regret this comparison)

Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (1813) – which is it? Literature! Everybody I ask will say it is literature. Then, did you know that when it came out it was considered nothing more than fiction of the time? It wasn’t literature – oh, no! It was fancy one nighter.

Julie Garwood “The Prize” (1991)- pure fiction! Right? Yes, well, today it’s indeed pure fiction. But I fear that if Jane Austen’s book got out of the fiction section and into literature, then this book will never do that, because starting from our era, they don’t see the difference so clearly anymore.

Like a student once told me – fiction is your entertainment, literature you try to press through your unwilling mind in school.

Thankfully there is more to it and if you like to read, classic literature is a must if you ever want to be different, because you can’t be different or differentiate yourself from the rules if you do not know them.

Yay! Moral of the story.

As I wanted to say – to me, they are both equally important, fiction as genre fiction perhaps even more. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? We still read both and we still pick the books on what we want to get out of them. And if we’re lucky, those books will take our expectations, rule as through those expectations and take us to a whole different level and completely other direction than we were expecting to go. So when we put that book down and raise our eyes, we are sitting next to a pretty lake instead of city wall and wonder how the hell we got this far and must start searching our way back.

Yeah, so it doesn’t really matter, this differentiating of the two.  Yet it is intriguing question – why do they?




Filed under writing trivia

6 responses to “Literature and fiction

  1. It’s all about prestige… and (since I was an English teacher in a past life) it’s all about the message. Take for instance the two movies/theatre plays (since I also taught Drama in that same past life) West Side Story and Grease. The head of my high school Regional Arts Drama program loved one and despised the other – why? One was about love and the other about lust. One dealt with the deeper issues of politics and feuds and how as human beings if we let hatred rule our hearts we risk the chance of destroying what we love/cherish most in this life. The other is the reality for many teens in first world countries – how do you get to be popular and should you “go all the way” with that guy you like? The world needs both stories but the “deeper meaning” you pull from the Romeo & Juliet copy is more literary (more important) than talking about sex and teens. On one level, I agree with this but on another level (since I am and have always been a lover of genre fiction) those fast-reads that have less substance to them are just as valuable – and need to be respected in their own right and their own honoured category 🙂

    • LC Aisling

      Sad though, isn’t it? Labeling like that takes chances away for many good books to be taken seriously, because they are too eagerly tossed in genre fiction.

  2. Agreed. However, if Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (Horror), Ursla Le Guin’s “Wizard of Earth Sea” (Fantasy) & Orsen Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” (Sci-Fi) can be highly recognized as both literary and genre fiction… anyone’s writing can 🙂 What’s sad is just how hard we have to fight for that recognition.

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