Literary Fiction Book Tag || Always Doing

Hey there, Kazen here, and
welcome back to Always Doing. [♪♪] I am behind on my tags as ever so here we are
in another effort to dig myself out. This is the literary fiction book tag. The original
is by Jasmine over at Jasmine’s Reads and I was tagged by Claire over at Claire Reads Books.
If you have not checked out her channel yet please do so. She does incredible reviews, she has so many insights, and I love the way she thinks
about reading and how analytical she is, while also of course including
how much she enjoyed a book when she reviews things. And, just go check her out.
I have to admit I’m coming to this tag with a little bit of trepidation because
many of the people who’ve done it already read primarily literary fiction. And while I do read literary fiction, I mean,
I’m a judge for The Booktube Prize, I do pick up a bunch during the year, it’s not my favorite genre. It’s not my primary genre, even. If I HAVE a primary genre. I read
so much different stuff. But it’s not first in my heart, let’s put it that way. So I might have a bit different perspective
than some of the other people who have done this tag, we’ll see. Question number one:
how do you define literary fiction? And I’m going to be honest right
off the top – I do not like the term “literary fiction”. It is, so, it’s not
necessarily the term itself, it’s how some people use it. They will
capitalize Literature to look down at all the other genres in the bookstore.
And this especially happens when people say there are two different kinds of fiction –
literary fiction and commercial fiction. Which to me is just kind of silly
because commercial fiction, it’s almost like, ‘oh, you’re only trying to
sell books.’ As if literary fiction authors don’t want to sell books.
I’ve watched a bunch of people’s versions of this tag so far and nobody
falls into that category of being snooty about it, but just in general, in the
literary scene, people are like, ‘oh, that genre stuff over there that’s not as good.’
And that annoys me because genre is where I live. I love romance. I love
science fiction. I love fantasy. I dip into mystery. That’s the section of the
bookstore you will most likely find me in. I’ve seen bunches of definitions
that I like to varying degrees, but I’m going to hew close to Claire in that
literary fiction is fiction where writing takes precedence over plot, and genre fiction is fiction where plot takes precedence over writing. Now, this
does not mean that literary fiction is without plot. And this does not mean that
genre fiction has crappy writing. Au contraire. There’s so many good romance novels
out there that have wonderful writing. And I’m actually going to link
to Susanna Kearsley. She wrote an article, I think it was in 2013, about writing quality across genres, and it just shows that it doesn’t matter what genre the book is,
necessarily, to have good writing. At the same time, if it becomes a choice, if you
have to choose between having more of a plotline or keeping the quality of the
writing high, *literary fiction will want to keep the writing. And in genre if
there isn’t a plot driving the thing it’s not going to go very far. It’s going
to be ‘hey, this mystery has pretty writing, but we never figured out whodunit.’
And again, there are plenty of literary fiction books that have plot.
Those are the ones that I tend to gravitate to. And there are plenty of genre
books that have amazing writing as well. It’s just if one or the other is gonna win,
it’s gonna be different for each. Question number two: name a literary
fiction novel with a brilliant character study. And I’m going with Permission by
Saskia Vogel. The book follows Echo. She lives in LA, I think she’s in her early 20s,
and she’s an actress in the real way, like, she ends up getting commercial work.
It’s not like she’s a regular on a sitcom or anything. And her father dies
in a sudden accident and it turns both her and her mother’s worlds upside down.
But that’s not the important part, this is again, the plot is kind of pushed aside because we
get to see through flashbacks and things how Echo grew up and how relationships in her past
greatly affected who she became today, and how maybe she’s not happy
with who she is. And then a dominatrix moves in across the street and through her relationship with that woman she realizes who she wants to become,
who she can become. Watching Echo grow and change especially through this lens of her
romantic relationships over time, I found fascinating. Number three: name a literary fiction novel
that has experimental or unique writing. I’m going with Martin John by Anakana Scofield. This book is about a disturbed man and what makes it is this writing. It is very
meta in some parts, and the narrator pulls way, way back and even talks about
the book itself within the book. And then in other places it’s a really close
third-person narrator that lets us get into Martin John’s head. And let me
tell you, it’s a disturbing place to be. And his is one of those reads that is [inhale] not a fun read, but it’s an impactful read, and it’s one that has stuck with me even
though I read this I think three years ago. And maybe I can’t remember exactly
particular plot points of what happened, but just the entire air around it and
interesting bits of the writing have stuck with me. I’m going to link to my
Goodreads review of this below because I have samples of the writing in there,
just so you can get a flavor for it. It’s incredibly, well, unique, and I haven’t
seen anything like it before. It was shortlisted for the Goldsmith’s prize which is for “fiction at its most novel” is their tagline, and, totally fits the bill. Didn’t win, though. Number four: name a literary fiction novel
with an interesting structure. How about A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. The novel starts with a wedding scene, and we can see that the youngest son of a family has
been estranged but we’re not sure why. And then the novel itself breaks
into three main parts. The first part, which I think is also the longest, is from
the point of view of the three kids. And we get to see what their life is like,
what they remember, what the biggest events were in their lives. And this is not purely
chronological. We learn some main events, some important touchstones:
the oldest daughter going to college, a particular birthday party, when people
are born, when people die. And those are used to signpost when the narrative is
happening. So this happened before that birthday party, or right after so-and-so
left for college. And so even though this is, it’s KIND OF chronological
it’s not actually chronological. The next section is from the mother’s
point of view and it covers the exact same time period but
includes things from HER perspective and some conversations that the kids had no
idea about, they just had no clue. And this, we interleave that with what we
know from the first part and it adds depth. We thought we had an idea who was
at fault, but then once we know what the mom knows you go, ‘well, maybe not. This is
more complicated than I thought.’ And the last section is a note that’s being written from the father to the estranged son. And this adds even more. We see more
conversations we didn’t know about, we hear the reasoning why he did
what he did, and it just gets more not complicated, but nuanced. I found it
fairly straightforward in writing style, on a sentence level. But this structure
is what made the book for me. Number five: name a literary fiction
novel with social themes. And I’m going with コンビニ人間。
Isn’t this cover incredible? I, I don’t, I can’t explain it, but it’s there. It’s Convenience Store Woman in English. The author is Murata Sayaka and
the translator is Ginny Tapley Takemori. The main character does not fit very well
in Japanese society. One is expected to follow a path from high school to
college into an office job. Solid 40, well, in Japan it’s more like a 60 hour week, and
to get married and to have kids. And this is not what she wants. Instead, right
after finishing high school, she takes up a job at the convenience store and never
leaves, which creates lots of friction between her and society, her family. And just really what… they have a hard time dealing with that what’s best for her
isn’t what’s best for everyone. That was a pretty reductive way to sum up
the novel but I’m just gonna go with that for now. You’ve probably heard lots about it already,
it’s been widely reviewed on Booktube. Number six: name a literary fiction novel
that explores the human condition. And a lot of people have said well,
that’s all literary fiction. I would argue that almost all fiction, period, is exploring the human condition.
I *mean romance novels, science fiction has got a real lock on this, I think.
It’s just [inhale] Anyway. But a literary fiction novel that
explores the human condition. I’m going with When the Emperor
Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. It’s a story about a Japanese-American family that gets taken to the detention
centers that happened during World War II. And this family,
I think they go to Utah, and they’re there for over three years in the desert. And I
think a lot of novelists, if they decide to write about this, they would really
pull on emotional heartstrings and they would kind of milk the situation for all it’s worth. But the way Otsuka does it is quite not low key. Subdued? It’s all there, but it’s not with flashy neon signs. Now that I’m thinking about it I could have almost
swapped this for the previous one because it talks about lots social
issues as well. And I mean, there are people being locked up
on the border now for no good reason. So it’s timely on top of everything else. Number seven: name a brilliant
literary hybrid genre novel. I’m going with Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente. It is a setting-driven fantasy novel, and it’s about a town that you visit in your dreams and it’s passed sexually. It’s like an STD of a town. Things there are very surreal, but
some of the people start realizing that some of the effects of
the place are incredibly real. And things go from there. It’s full of images.
I absolutely love the writing while acknowledging that’s not going to be to
everyone’s taste. And it’s loose on plot which is why I consider it a bit of a hybrid
between fantasy and literary fiction. Last question, number eight: what genre do
you wish were mixed with literary fiction more? And part of me, a small part of me,
just wants to be like, ‘Hey. There’s nothin’ wrong with my genre.
Why don’t you just leave it alone.’ But that’s not the spirit of the question. I get it.
It’s just that little [buzzer sound] part of me that’s a little, you know, got to stick up
for the genre, kind of thing. But I’m going to say fantasy? I guess? I am worried that if romance is made more literary it’s going to be bogged down with more negativity and the ending won’t be happy anymore. And yeah. And you can lift the writing quality of a romance and have it still be
a romance. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of
romances out there already that have amazing writing quality. So, yeah.
I’m just gonna say fantasy, but, yeah. So there we have it my answers to
the Literary Fiction Book Tag. What do you think? If you’ve read any
of these books, if you’d like to read these books, I would love to hear from you down
in the comments below. And this is a tag so I’m going to tag two people that I
love here on Booktube who read literary fiction as well as genre because I
really would like to get some more perspectives by people who read widely
outside of literary fiction. So I’m going with Meonicorn over at The Bookish Land
and Peeta at Comfy Cozy Up. I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions.
Thank you for watching, subscribe if you’re new, and I will see you
in the next video. Bye! [♪♪]
Thanks for watching! While doing the captions I realized something: I’ve mentioned STDs in two of the last three videos,
each time in honest relation to a book’s plot. Woah. 🙃

11 Replies to “Literary Fiction Book Tag || Always Doing

  1. Loved this! I ain’t touching this tag with a 10 foot pole! I have enough down votes on every video I post. LOL

  2. Good take on the tag and I love how widely you read and champion all kinds of books. And yes to the human condition being in all the books. I've read some good short stories by Otsuka and that novel sounds great.

  3. Thanks for tagging me 😊 I look forward to doing this tag. You mentioned some interesting books…I was taking notes.

  4. Haha!!! exactly right about how people divide fiction into Literary Fiction versus Commercial Fiction. Last I checked all authors want people to read and buy their books. Good point about all fiction portraying the human condition not just all literary fiction.

  5. I love your answers to this tag. I also really struggle with the term "literary" and the idea that any one type of literature has more value than any other. I've seen a couple versions of this tag that challenge the idea that genre fiction can't be literary (the most recent one I watched was Britta Bohler's). As someone who also reads very widely, I prefer seeing people answer this tag from a broader perspective.

  6. I liked your answer about fantasy being perhaps more literary as well as romance. There are things about these genres that make them perfect and kind of a niche experience that I would not want to be ruined by becoming more “literary”. Not sure how to express it, you did it better🤗

  7. I really liked how you explained the difference between literary fiction and genre. How both can have beautiful writing but the difference is in what the types can value more. I haven’t read Permission yet, but I still really want to. I really enjoyed When the Emperor was Divine. I thought that I read somewhere that Palimpest somehow ties into Valente’s fairyland series but I’m not sure how since it’s catered towards younger folks. Great tag responses Kazen!

  8. I love your discussion of genre fiction vs literary fiction. I am currently having that conversation with a couple of my classes 🙂

  9. yess thank you for championing so eloquently for genre fiction! of the books you've mentioned here, I've only read Convenience Store Woman but I really enjoyed it. it was so fun and bizarre and completely unexpected.

  10. I usually just think of literary fiction as "general" or…maybe just any "non-genre" adult fiction because if it starts to be more focused towards sci-fi or romance or politics or whatever else, I just think of it as that genre instead. Like it's sort of a "catch all" term, but I love your description of it and it actually makes much more sense! hahah

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