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."