Books Magazine

Resuming Popular v. Literary Debate, in Brief

By Bluestalking @Bluestalking

Oh, stuff and rot. Got much busier than I'd anticipated and look how much I've left hanging, just over the past week or so. It's not like I have a life outside the blog or anything. Still, I feel such shame. Worse, looking back over recent posts I see the distinct lack of self-editing and feel the urge to scream, "I can write better than this, really!" Not that anyone else would particularly care but I do, and it upsets me knowing I let all these posts slide without even the pretense of editing.

Anyway. Water under the bridge, a readership off doing things normal people do in summer and belated editing: three of my best friends.


The Great Literary vs. Genre Debate

There was the discussion of POPULAR books a week or so ago, as well as genre vs. literary fiction. Turns out I wasn't able to complete one dratted book for that librarian gathering but I don't think all was for nought. At the meeting, a short - but civil - mini discussion broke out:

What's "literary" fiction and does it say anything about a person who reads solely genre novels, specifically (in this case) gentle reads, with nothing upsetting, no nasty characters or situations? Or does it say anything at all?

Things like this do matter to librarians. Quite a lot, because the vast majority of the reading public - our patronage - read popular books. Not always genre per se but popular.We're in the business of connecting readers and books. It's kind of like a bookstore, only you don't actually have to pay for materials you bring home. Innovative, I'd say. Should catch on like wildfire, eh?

Pause, while my masters degree gently weeps.

So, what makes a book popular? The bestseller lists, mostly. Buzz from TV, online news sources, occasionally NEWSPAPERS. Remember those? Made from real paper, typed with ink, got your fingers a bit messy? And they went great with coffee.

That baying noise you hear? That's my masters degree sobbing.

Popular authors develop a loyal following, so when they publish something new people clamor to get it, which is why libraries buy so many copies of these books - so our patrons don't have to wait as long. It's also why there's less money left over to buy literary fiction and other materials. But let's leave that for a future post, lest my bachelors AND masters degrees throw themselves into the shredder.

Savvy popular authors publish series novels, hooking readers by creating identifiable characters with quirks, endearing or otherwise memorable personality traits. Maybe they set their novels in a particular place, or otherwise feature some sort of uniformity unique to that particular series.

Those are the popular authors. But what of the others, those writing rich, luxurious prose we English majors want to roll in like All-Star Wrestlers in baby oil? Now, there you have your division and it's a clear one. From here the topic gets heavy and I get very, very opinionated, so I'll put that off for a later time, naturally.

While it is a part of my job to connect all readers with books they enjoy reading, personally I do not believe it's better to read just anything than nothing at all. A diet of solely crap reading does litle to improve the mind. A diet of quality literature, on the other hand, builds new neural pathways expanding the mind, adding to overall intellect. And it's a whole hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I know, I hear people saying they read for escape from real life, that or read the crap to take a break from more literate reading. Like a diet for your body, so is a diet for your mind. The occasional chocolate ice cream or cake or whatever is your weakness is a mere blip. In the long-term it means nothing, as long as your general diet is good. And, in this case, good means quality writing.

But the whole point of the former post I'm reprising was I'm not familiar enough with the popular books library patrons read. I want to remedy that, while not wasting my time on worrying about it all. The top in each genre is my goal. That's the best quality writing from the genres making up 90%, the less palatable the remaining 10 %. It is my compromise, on behalf of my profession.

Now, speaking of my profession, I must fly to a morning meeting. I feel better having caught up at least this much, on a subject left hanging. But I'm off to brave the 100F heat, poor me! Time to put on my librarian hat and skeedaddle.



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