Right off the bat I'll say that I'm not starting this discussion to get into the literature vs. genre debate. I just want to explore some of the differences and see what other members have experienced in the same realm.

To tell you the truth, most of my reading throughout my life has been based firmly in the genres of sci-fi, horror and crime. I haven't ventured into the world of contemporary literature much at all. But at the moment I find my desires leading me in this direction with mixed results.

I recently finished FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahnuik and absolutely loved it. Loved the rhythm, the plot, the ideas and messed-up philosophies of the main characters, loved that it didn't clearly fit into any genre but still felt like a genre novel.

Some time ago I read Peter Temple's THE BROKEN SHORE and loved its slow, laconic, introspective pace combined with a decent crime fiction plot. But I wouldn't call it crime fiction.

Right now I'm reading THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. While it has beautifully bleak poetry, I find some of the devices jar me on a regular basis.

The use of obscure words that don't fit the voice of the character, the random flashbacks and drifting moments of introspection, the repetition of the dialogue, the needless detail in the description of actions.

Having said that, you might think I'm not enjoying the novel, but I'm loving being swept up in the world McCarthy creates and I appreciate his conviction in not using quotation marks or apostrophes.

But I'm definitely finding it to be a slow read.

I'm also reading AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis. It fits well within the crime fiction world but the way it's presented makes it seem more literary to me. The relentless descriptions of brands and products, the draining obsession with status, the detailed world of the 80s, all make for a novel that doesn't feel like crime fiction. But then the slow build of the serial killer nature of the main character does.

Literature has always seemed to me to be a separate genre that focuses more on character, description and language, whereas genre fiction has a much stronger plot element.

In a way, I see all the genres (including literature) as part of a spectrum, where at the far literary end I might see something like THE ROAD; pulling back in further would be AMERICAN PSYCHO and THE BROKEN SHORE, with FIGHT CLUB being more thriller based and more genre than literary.

You can see I'm not exactly making a clear point with this, and that's because I'm really just feeling my way through the differences. I don't see a clear divide between literature and crime fiction, but I can see the use of elements from both in what I'm reading.

I suppose I'm looking at broadening my reading horizons and would love to hear some recommendations and experiences from others.

As David Terrenoire loves to say, "Talk to me."

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Books are put in categories because booksellers need to know which rack they go on. Shakespeare may have written in verse--now that's literary--but I say his topic was usually crime.
Daniel, there's a whole bunch more 'genres' out there way past stuff like "The Road.' When academics start calling it "the text," watch out!

I don't mind the categorization in bookstores anymore. It used to bug me, but I don't know, it's starting to make more sense to me now.

You could try someone like Michel Houllebeg, maybe his novel "Platform" which is kind of a literary look at the emerging sex tourism industry, or "The Possibility of an Island" which is sort of sci fi and follows what happens when a cult really does perfect cloning.

I always liked "American Psycho." Tell me, do you think any of the action in the book takes place anywhere but inside the narrator's head? I used to get in some drunken undergrad arguments about the movie "Barton Fink" about how it all took place in the character's head - some people seem really offended by that idea, but as my profs used to say, I can back it up with the text (I hated university then and I hate it more now).
It's human nature to categorise, it's how our brains work. As long as we don't get too finnicky about it, I don't see the problem.

I'll have to look at those titles you mentioned, but I haven't finished AMERICAN PSYCHO yet so I can't answer your question. So far though, the action is taking place outside the narrative. It's a little disappointing. I wanted to 'see' him put that girl's head in the freezer.
Oh, there are plenty of sequels or continuing series in literature. Richard Ford keeps going back to Frank Bascombe and Updike's Rabbit Angstrom books come to mind first.

I'm sure everyone who sits down to write a genre book feels they're using a kind of Trojan horse, hiding their important life themes inside an entertaining package - and sometimes they even succeed. The problem is, a successful book is as rare in genre as it is in literature. The difference is a failed mystery novel may still have a decent mystery, but a failed literary novel is just boring and every year in Canada we nominate five of them for our top prize.
Actually, I think of the spectrum more as a circle with all the genres (including literary fiction) at points along the circumference. Then you can place a book somewhere within the circle.

I must say I don't agree that genre is purely entertainment and literary fiction is purely didactic or revelatory. I think all fiction needs some of these elements to be good.

And sci-fi didn't make you think seriously about your humanity? I think that good sci-fi has the potential to do this more effectively than straight literary fiction.
Damn it, more books to read! :)
Amen to what Daniel said!
Heavens! We really have eliminated the "whom". :)
Language is a living thing - it changes..... ;)
In titles?
IJ, I am a continuous offender on who/whom. I always use who now - though it does make me feel a bit unwashed. It's my rebel streak. It's like I'm thumbing my English professors. Sorry! I like to make up new words too...
Daniel - I have recently picked up some John LeCarre books - his newer ones - like 'Constant Gardener'. He has always been for me a compelling read, but he has also evolved into an incredibly talented writer. I envy his ability to turn a phrase. For spectacular writing coupled with great storytelling, here are some favs: Anything by Michael Ondaatje, but the 'English Patient' is incredible, (nothing like the movie at all - it is mostly set in Italy and the way he weaves two different stories is phenomenal, his metaphors will make you weep) or 'Anil's Ghost', well, all of his books are good. Milan Kundera, 'Unbearable Lightness of Being' for some reason really sticks with me. For 'modern' lit I like Nick Hornby (About a Boy, A long Way Down) or Ian McEwan. They are not fancy, spare in their word usage, but great stuff. I just read Ali Smith, 'the Accidental', and it was in the same format as Cormac McCarthy. Hated it. Drove me crazy all the description and lack of punctuation - and I like when a writer stretches the form. There was a great story hidden in there. I'll dump 'whom' but I'm still attached to my quotation marks. PS - all the above were also really enjoyed by my husband, so they aren't too girly:)
I was teasing. From what I have seen of recent mysteries, the "who" form seems to be preferred in situations where you'd expect "whom." This is rapidly turning into the sort of stylistic decision where using "whom" will be considered stilted writing. So you are quite right in your preference. But there are still occasions where "whom" is used incorrectly, and that is a major "ouch."


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