It should not come as a surprise to anyone that I enjoy reading. From the moment I read my first book , The Tower Treasure, the first book in the Hardy Boys series I became hooked and never stopped. However, recently I was surprised to learn about a phenomenon in literature known as pop fiction and subsequently literary fiction. All I knew is that I liked to read books. Other than differing genres I was unaware of this distinction between books. I have done some research in the past few days to become more familiar with the idea of pop fiction and literary fiction. I will post the links below for anyone that wishes to make themselves more familiar with this topic. Consequently, I now feel the need to share my thoughts on this issue.
I picked the quote “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” because this accurately reflects on my view on fiction and its role in people’s lives. What sparked this blog was a Youtube video I had watched highlighting the differences between pop fiction and literary fiction. Literary fiction was being championed as somewhat more important. I see a distinction in different types of fiction but I do not think that is very important. Fiction is a means for one to unplug and be entertained by a good story. The format that is used in telling the story is irrelevant.
Pop fiction is essentially different genres of fiction that are popular at the time. Some examples of pop fiction would be The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Legend series. Each book series helps to comprise the dystopian genre of fiction. These books have become very popular in the last few years and have fueled publishers to print other books that are dystopian themed. Pop fiction by definition changes every so often. What ever the collective masses are currently interested in and reading would be considered pop fiction. There are common themes pop fiction books share. They are usually centered around an overall plot that is explosive, action packed, and involves love. In recent pop fiction, each story contains a love triangle and a complicated means of resolving the romance conundrum. The plot is developed early on and the characters work toward resolving the issues that have been clearly defined by the author. Typically, at the end of the book or series the original problems the characters face in the story are resolved. Some of the characters do get to live a “happily ever after”.
Literary fiction can be defined as literature that does not conform to general audiences. Literary fiction often focuses more on the characters and their development throughout the story. Literary fiction can be described as being deep, thought provoking, and concerned with expressing the thoughts of the author. Characters can be developed so they have great psychological and philosophical depth. Plot is not necessarily essential to the story. The author may be more focused on an overall theme. Metaphors may be used to express ideas and points more than a plot being hammered out by the stories characters. Literary fiction tends to be more descriptive. A reader can expect that literary fiction will hold more than meets the eye.
The stark differences between pop fiction and literary fiction are compelling. Pop fiction is meant to appeal to as large as an audience as possible. Literary fiction can certainly be a best seller or be on the New York Time’s list but the over all goal is not sales of the book. Some literary authors may not even be concerned with notoriety. The issue that I take is that some could consider pop fiction less than simply because it appeals to the widest audience possible while literary fiction does not they have more of a niche readership. I make sense of this by comparing it to a hipster attitude. I hate hipsters’ and their attitudes. Most literary classics fall into the category of literary fiction. You know, those books you had to read in high school; Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and so on. Those books are influential and very important. However, I would argue that pop fiction books are just as important. I take the stance that pop fiction is a driving force for why most people read today. I would prefer a society who read pop fiction than one that doesn’t read at all.
Furthermore, its true that literary fiction is saturated with metaphors and deep thoughts strung together by the author. However, recent pop fiction books have done a tremendous job with tackling tough theme and incorporating metaphors into the story that is being told. It is apparent that pop fiction writers have figured out a way to bridge the gap between the two genres.
To clearly understand the way some people can view pop fiction and literary fiction here is my analogy. Take the movie industry. Most people love movies. Blockbuster hits. The most popular movies are the equivalent to pop fiction because they are designed to appeal to as many viewers as possible. Literary fiction is the equivalent to the movies that are normally Oscar winning movies. Less people tend to see them and they bring in less money than the summer hits. However, they are considered the cream of the crop.
Ultimately, I think it would be unfair if a person decided to not read something because it was considered pop fiction. We have already discussed that great strides have been made in this genre of literature. There are many pop fiction books that have a plethora of metaphors, complicated characters, and deep plot themes. It would be a disservice to discredit a book simply because it is popular.
Finally, fiction is seen as a means of entertainment, a way for people to unplug or escape. All forms of literature that can make a person do that is a good thing in my book. Literature can be one of the most fulfilling ways to express imagination. Story telling is something we humans crave. Whether you read pop fiction or literary fiction you are being transported to a different reality. Your mind is connecting with the author’s mind in a space that is entirely its’ own reality.
This in itself is humbling.