A good friend of mine and I have long discussed the division between what is considered quality literature vs. popular fiction. Quite often the two do not go hand in hand. The image of the unpublished writer who sits alone at his desk with his glass half-filled with cheap scotch while he taps away at his keyboard to create an original masterpiece which will embrace the souls and minds of his readers has become iconic. Writers and non-writers have adapted to this persona as the individual who will create our literary works of art. It appears that one must suffer, be disillusioned, and have a lust of contempt to create unparalleled fiction. The works of this person are studied and critiqued. Mass popularity may not follow until years later, when we realize how truly phenomenal they were. Thus, leaving us with a final belief that writers should follow the path of most resistance so that they, too, may one day be labeled as truly talented.
Do I believe in this statement? Well, yes and no.
An author’s work must derive from a place within them. Whether it is from their heart, or a place much darker, an author’s writing must be fed by emotion. Otherwise, it is empty drivel that a fifth grader will see through. This does not mean that all great works of fiction are required to have long words, random soliloquies, and over-the-top narratives that only a person with a degree from MIT will be able to decipher. The author’s writing, if fueled by passion, will find its place with both literary snobs and the masses.
What constitutes a snob? Do you only read works from Conrad, Joyce, Atwood, or Austen? Do you worry what others will say regarding your choice of reading material? Would you vehemently deny reading, or having any such knowledge of, popular fiction from such authors as King, Patterson, Brown, or Meyer? Are you a closet popular fiction reader? Then yes, my dear, you are a snob. I am not here to judge. I took a long hard look at my bookshelf before writing this article and found that the scale tipped quite heavily in favour of what are known as “great works of literature.” But scattered between Dennis Lehane, Carol Shields, and Ann-Marie MacDonald were James Patterson, Stephen King, Dan Brown and, yes, Stephanie Meyer.
Writers, whether they wish to admit this or not, want readers to enjoy their work.
A work created with passion will undoubtedly find a reader who will connect with the story and its characters. This is the starting point of great fiction. And it is what truly matters, snobbery aside.
Do you consider yourself a literary snob? What is on your bookshelf? If you wish to include some of the more notable literary works, a good site to bookmark is The Greatest Literature of all Time. This website is a wonderful reference for commentaries on authors, their works, and even film and video reviews on great works of literature. But then again, a book you pick up from the summer reading table at the bookstore might hold just as much value…
Giselle Maclean is Managing Editor of BreakFree, a blog that passionately charts her personal challenges as a wife, mother and friend; while managing a career within the financial services industry.