Genre Fiction vs. Literary Fiction

The NY Times recently published an article describing Mormon writers as a group.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/09/us/mormons-offer-cautionary-lesson-on-sunny-outlook-vs-literary-greatness.html?_r=0

Naturally, I’m not happy with the conclusions. First of all, the author supposes most of the popular Mormon writers are in genre fiction instead of literary fiction because genre fiction has happy endings and literary fiction tends to end darkly. This conclusion is supported by the Mormon cultural tendency toward positive outcomes in the future. I won’t say we aren’t optimistic. Clearly this writer never read A Short Stay in Hell by Steven Peck.

The first problem I have with this is that genre fiction CAN BE LITERARY FICTION! Does this person think Slaughterhouse 5, Farenheit 451, and Frankenstein are NOT literary fiction simply because of their genre setting? They aren’t froo-froo lighthouse keepers struggling with memories of lost kittens, but they are literary fiction of the highest caliber.

The second problem comes from the conclusions drawn by extension to that first failure. The author says Mormons haven’t produced any great literary writers because all the great writers from Mormon culture are in genre fiction. This, I think, reveals the lack of depth of understanding of the author. Anybody who reads Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, and actually understands literature, will see a great deal of literary value in Orson Scott Card’s work.

I won’t defend Twilight (Stephanie Meyer, famous Mormon) the same way, having not read it. But I think I’m safe in saying it does not reflect a, “lack of comfort taking up topics like sex.”

Maybe my problem is not with the person writing this article as much as it is with people who pigeon-hole genre fiction as not having literary value. It seems to me that they are criticizing a group of fiction as being ‘less intellectual’ while actually revealing their own closed-mindedness.

My answer to anybody who thinks genre fiction cannot be literary: Theocracide.

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