Friday, January 7, 2011

In Defense of Literary Fiction

As a writer–editor–translator working in a newsroom before my retirement and subsequent turn to trying my hand at writing literary fiction, I occasionally attend critique group meetings, which I find quite beneficial in terms of camaraderie, but somewhat wanting in effectiveness.
In my humble opinion, one cannot expect a proper critique at a two–hours meeting with writers of different genres whose critiques are no more than attempts at editing or even proofreading. The absence of in–depth discussions of the work examined renders the effort meaningless.
Expanding on the above, critique groups are mostly organized by excellent writers associations. Unfortunately for the literary–minded writer, most of these associations are mainly geared toward the commercial side of the written word, like genre fiction, mass–market fiction, self–publishing, etc., all in detriment of literature as an art, an expression of beauty and intellectual growth. It can justifiably be argued that today's explosion of commercial mass–media fiction is contributing, at least in part, to the demise of literary fiction in our culture. And many writers associations, wittingly or unwittingly, are participating in the killing. What a shame.
It would be an excellent idea for writers associations to create special groups for established or aspiring writers of literary fiction. People who see in writing an art and not only a craft; who strive to get published the traditional way, knowing that this is the best proof of one's real worth as a writer.

William H. Cole, in his essay "The Anatomy of a Wannabe Literary Writer," makes a wonderful case for what constitutes a literary writer, and what is required of him to become one. His essay can be found at