Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 29 February 2012

the Very Definition of Literary Fiction

The daughter has an A’Level in English Literature, in fact, the daughter got an A, and, for her AS level, she got 100% in the exam, which is nothing short of impressive.

The daughter doesn’t read, however. It’s tough to blame her for that; the husband earns his money writing, and I earned mine reading for a long time, so I can see how she associates books with work and wants to remain as far away from them as humanly possible. Her lack of interest in books isn’t because she’s stupid, either; she got an A in her Philosophy and Ethics A’Level too, so ideas don’t exactly scare her. The daughter does love film, and watches a good deal of it, and she’s happy to read plays, because she’s a drama student; she also loves to be read to, either for real or by audiobook, but actual books, novels, long-form fiction to lose oneself in leave her cold.
She and I, and the husband, were walking through town the other day when I mentioned an idea for a book. The husband and I got quite excited about it, so much so that I’ve decided to make it the next book I write, or, possibly, the one after that. The daughter looked blank, bored even.
“Is that the sort of stuff you like to write?” she asked, having never read anything I’ve ever done.
“What do you mean, ‘sort of stuff’?” I asked. “It’s brilliant!”
“The sort of book where nothing happens and then it ends,” she said.
I turned to look at her. She has a way with words, the daughter, and I wanted her to elaborate. Like most people, she’ll generally do that if I just shut up and wait a moment. Ten or fifteen seconds passed.
“It’s like that Michael Frayn thing... “Spies”, I read for my A’Level,” she said. “I hated that. By the end of the year, we all hated it, including the teacher.”
“That’s exactly the sort of book I want to write,” I said, “especially if it ends up winning the Whitbread prize!”
“Bloody literary fiction,” she said.
So there you have it. It’s not a label I particularly like, and it’s not a label that many of us really understand, but Literary Fiction is here to stay, and, don’t be surprised if I end up writing some. At least now I’ll have a definition for what I’m doing.

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid I have some sympathy with your daughter's views on Frayn - it may be a brilliant book, but as a storyteller I felt the ending let the book down and I won't read it again. My MA is split down the middle into literary fiction writers and the rest, and I do love some literary fiction. But I prefer well written with powerful storytelling - for something to happen, in your daughter's words - perhaps at the expense of language and characterisation. Horses for courses. It was nice that Mslexia recognised a range of styles.