Literary fiction is just bumming me out. Can I say that? Can I admit that here among other writers, as a writer, as a writer of what some agents termed literary fiction?
I still don't know what constitutes literary fiction as opposed to genre fiction, or mainstream fiction, or commercial fiction. I've heard it joked (in that all-jokes-are-really-serious sort of way) that commercial fiction makes money and literary fiction doesn't. Some publishers say literary fiction emphasizes characters while commercial fiction emphasized plot. At some point Nathan Bransford argued that literary fiction was the kind of fiction in which plot happens beneath the surface and commercial fiction has more overt, in-your-face action. Or something like that.
I know some of you are thinking that literary fiction is the stuff that puts you to sleep and commercial fiction is the kind that keeps you up way past your bedtime.
Me? I've read enough lately to start thinking it's commercial if it ends happily and literary if it ends sadly. If you read something and it depresses the heck out of you, it's probably literary.
Just kidding. Sort of...
It's just that lately the books I've been reading are very much literary... and exceptionally well-written at the sentence level. They are the kind of books you could close your eye and point to a single random sentence and read it and say, "Wow! That's an amazing sentence!" The use of words, the vivid language, the seamless, delicate metaphors that are done so well you don't even notice them except that they completely enhance the story. They are beautifully written.
They are interesting, too. I do stay up too late reading. I took one to the gym yesterday to finish while I worked out, and I had to keep adding ten minutes to my workout so I could finish "just one more chapter." It was an awesome workout, by the way. And I finished the book.
They are well-crafted. They are interesting.
And they are depressing.
Not that I don't think every book needs to be joyful, or end happily. Heck, I used to make a point of writing stories that DIDN'T end happily. But after a string of .... a lot of books... I'm getting downright depressed.
When I brought up my new WIP on facebook some time ago, I asked my friends, "What do you want out of a book?"
And resoundingly, they said, "We want a happy ending."
Many of the books I've been reading have received high honors and accolades from critics, but from the general reviewing public, the resounding opinion is that the books end badly. They as readers are not satisfied by the end.
Which makes me wonder if literary fiction has the reputation of not being best-sellers because it's boring, or if the secret is really that people want happy endings, and they are just more likely to get that in a commercial fiction book?
What do you think? And how do you like your books to end?