Is it really so rare to find people who enjoy both genre fiction and literary fiction? Why does /lit/ believe that reading both makes you less intelligent than a person who reads literary fiction exclusively?
>>7668591 For the most part, it's not a distinction between genre and literary so much as a distinction between mainstream and avant-garde fiction.
Mainstream fiction (which includes the vast majority of both genre and literary fiction), especially since the 1950s, tends to be extremely uninspired and one-note compared to avant-garde fiction because the primary purpose of mainstream fiction is to serve as commercial entertainment, and commercial entertainment has to follow strictly defined formulas to be viable.
On the other hand, avant-garde fiction prioritizes artistic expression above entertainment, which is a stance that's alien to those who have internalized the sensibility of the mainstream past a certain point. When one is conditioned to think of all media primarily as entertainment rather than art, there's a tendency to reject anything that doesn't offer an easily digestible, inoffensive, and formulaic experience.
Genre fiction is more stringently mainstream than literary fiction, because it has more mass appeal, but literary fiction is largely a stagnant circlejerk full of the same types of people putting out the same types of books for an increasingly dwindling audience. There's more freedom with avant-garde fiction but odds are no one's going to read it, because it doesn't conform to the expectations of an average reader of genre or literary fiction. There's no built-in audience for it.
The key is to read 'good' fiction. Good fiction, at least for me, is fiction that is working on more than one level of storytelling, usually through the use of symbolism, allusion, and allegory. Both literary and genre fiction can be 'good,' and both of them can be 'bad.' It just so happens that the vast preponderance of genre fiction is 'bad' under this definition.
A lot of genre fiction writers only ever read and draw influence from other genre fiction writers, and so they never participate in the wider literary tradition. This means the degree to which they can employ multiple levels of meaning is limited.
>>7668591 What's happening is part of a phenomenon I wrote about a couple of years ago when I was asked to comment on Rowling. I went to the Yale University bookstore and bought and read a copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." I suffered a great deal in the process. The writing was dreadful; the book was terrible. As I read, I noticed that every time a character went for a walk, the author wrote instead that the character "stretched his legs." I began marking on the back of an envelope every time that phrase was repeated. I stopped only after I had marked the envelope several dozen times. I was incredulous. Rowling's mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.
But when I wrote that in a newspaper, I was denounced. I was told that children would now read only J.K. Rowling, and I was asked whether that wasn't, after all, better than reading nothing at all? If Rowling was what it took to make them pick up a book, wasn't that a good thing?
It is not. "Harry Potter" will not lead our children on to Kipling's "Just So Stories" or his "Jungle Book." It will not lead them to Thurber's "Thirteen Clocks" or Kenneth Grahame's "Wind in the Willows" or Lewis Carroll's "Alice."
Later I read a lavish, loving review of Harry Potter by the same Stephen King. He wrote something to the effect of, "If these kids are reading Harry Potter at 11 or 12, then when they get older they will go on to read Stephen King." And he was quite right. He was not being ironic. When you read "Harry Potter" you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King.
Our society and our literature and our culture are being dumbed down, and the causes are very complex. I'm 73 years old. In a lifetime of teaching English, I've seen the study of literature debased. There's very little authentic study of the humanities remaining. My research assistant came to me two years ago saying she'd been in a seminar in which the teacher spent two hours saying that Walt Whitman was a racist. This isn't even good nonsense. It's insufferable.
>>7669101 >He wrote something to the effect of, "If these kids are reading Harry Potter at 11 or 12, then when they get older they will go on to read Stephen King." And he was quite right. He was not being ironic. When you read "Harry Potter" you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King.
the best stories more or less keep it simple and simply display the outcome of actions. My favorite example is the tale of Narcissus
>He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behavior and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died.
>>7669347 dude, that is a COMPLETE load of bullcrap. Some of the trashiest fiction has helped me understand the world better. Hell, I aced a philosophy course because of a fucking webcomic.
Your problem is that you have a very solid image of what it means to be intelligent and everything that deviates from it is retarded in your eyes. You can't image any intellectual endeavor that society doesn't tell you is intellectual
I think both have a place. I don't see genre fiction as "less intelligent" just because it follows a form. I find it interesting to contrast what authors in a particular genre do with the standard form. However, I admit that I'm not going to find a new favourite book within genre fiction. The majority of them are mediocre at best. But I don't see a problem with reading it IF you are open to other things as well. Reading only Stephen King over the course of your life won't do anything for you.
Some genre fiction is fine, in fact it can expand your mind and introduce new ideas. I've read Hyperion books recently and despite enjoying and reading different kind of literature, I don't think that literature could make me think about AI, universe and destiny of mankind in such way. perhaps
>>7668591 It's not. I usually find that people that enjoy reading and read a lot are not as averse to good genre fiction as your average /lit/ poseur. It's just that for them reading that one sci-fi novel their friends like so much isn't as big of a deal as it is for "Look! I've read The Stranger and The Republic and now I'm starting Infinite Jest! Am I patrician yet?" guys.
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