Monday, June 14, 2010

The Stigma of Popular Fiction

In my senior year of college, I took a class called "Popular Fiction." My professor, George Stade, was an old-school Modernist who wore a tweed jacket and occasionally smoked a cigarette in class. His reading list included books like Dracula, The Godfather, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, The Necromancer and The Maltese Falcon.

I loved the class. After spending nearly four years reading most of the classic literature that an English major should read, I was ready for characters like Michael Corleone. I also learned that a number of commercially successful books have literary value.

I'm writing a series of books titled Living Little Women so it's obvious that my books fall on the literary side. But my main character, Sarah Conrad, is very much a girl in the modern world has to deal with the same kinds of things that her counterparts in commercially driven novels do. Sarah is invited to a party that serves alcohol and has to decide whether or not to go. She also deals with a tense and confusing romantic interest.

My sense is that much of the best of the YA books that are being published today are more literary than commercial. And, some of them have sold very well including Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series and her follow up, Going Bovine.

1 comment:

  1. But does popular fiction carry stigma? It used to be called 'light fiction' and anyone studying English wouldn't want eg,Jilly Cooper to be seen on their book shelves but I'm not sure that's the case now. Especially since Harry Potter became perfectly acceptable reading for adults.

    I think fiction written for commercial reasons can frequently have literary merit. After all Jane Eyre was written because Charlotte Bronte was hard up and thus used her gift for writing as a means of making a living.