Here's what he had to say...
Literary Fiction versus Popular Fiction:
The Role of a Dying Art Form
Often times, new writers are filled with new and exciting ideas that they want to share with the world. One means of expressing deep ideas is through fiction. With the use of plot, characters, the narrative arch, tension and conflict, writers can explore aspects of the human experience in a creative and meaningful way. However, in the information driven age, with the internet, 24 hour news and so on, one question eventually presents itself: What role, if any, does literary fiction play in the modern context?
Traditionally, there are two type of fiction. On the one hand, there is literary fiction, prized by academics, tends to be character-driven and less dynamic, although it is filled with rich symbolism and subtext. Popular fiction, on the other hand, is plot-driven and filled with tension and conflict. Most well-known fiction writers such as Steven King and Danielle Steele focus on the latter medium. Plot-driven stories that capture the audience’s attention tend to be what many publishers prefer because it can turn a profit and sell books. Generally speaking, many writers who care more about ideas than book sales prefer the latter.
This problem is pronounced today more than ever. Although he sells a lot of books, someone like Dan Brown is the literary equivalent to what Thomas Kinkade is in the art world: A writer who is popular as hell, but lacks any real depth and sophistication in his writing. Each new fiction writer is forced to make a crucial decision as to what medium he or she will choose to write in.
Let’s be frank, most college English majors do not try to emulate the writer’s of popular fiction. If a student stood up in a college level literature class and announced, “I want to write like Steven King or Danielle Steele,” he or she would be met with nasty looks from everyone else in the room. Yet if that same student stood up and said, “I want to write like Dostoyevsky or Hemingway,” that statement would probably still earn some criticism (because he or she would then be mocked for comparing themselves with literary greatness), but would be respected in some circles for at least trying.
So what is a writer of literary fiction to do? To answer this question, the writer must ask another obvious ontological question: Who do I want to be? If he or she chooses to write popular fiction, they will perhaps find a publisher and will probably gain a quicker audience. If they choose to write literary fiction, however, they will earn more respect in certain circles, but will have a more difficult battle to fight in the world of publishing. Either way we must confront the sad reality that writing is not the high art it once was. Like all things in America, writing and publishing is a business. Publishers and book stores want to see results. I say, hold off on trying to be Shakespeare in the beginning, and spend the first part of your career making a name for yourself. When you become an established writer, than show the world what you can do.
A Note from the Book Boost: Interesting post today, Kenny. Of course, as a proud writer of popular fiction--I'd be thrilled to write a book like Stephen King but your point is well taken. And I wonder...will there ever be modern day "classics" like the ones we all hold so dear in our generation? Please tell us more about your book.
On July 4, 1845, when Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on the shores of Walden Pond, he was probably unaware that his abode in the woods, and the impact and influence of that endeavor, would forever echo through time.
Thoreau was an uncompromising idealist; an ardent maverick who criticized his fellow man. He urged that man and women ought to live more simply, and more deliberately. “The mass of men,” he famously wrote, “lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Yet the scope of Thoreau’s message is much wider than social criticism. He speaks of spiritual transcendence in Nature and the unbounded potential of the individual. Thoreau is a dreamer and he speaks to dreamers. In a word, shun dogmatism and demagoguery; see beyond the immediate conventional religious explanations to reap a higher understanding. In our comodified contemporary American society, with the rise of religious intolerance and fundamentalism, materialism and mass consumerism, Thoreau’s message is needed now more than ever.
Writer Kenny Luck has thumbed through Thoreau’s voluminous journals, correspondences, and other publications to make this the most comprehensive collection of Thoreau aphorisms available.
From the Introduction
“If I were to be baptized it should be in this pond,” wrote Nathanial Hawthorne, reflecting upon the majesty of Walden Pond one autumn afternoon in 1843. “But then one would not wish to pollute it by washing off his sins into it. None but angels should bathe here.”
As I stood on the edge of Walden Pond, about to make a symbolic leap into what had become in my mind a sacred place, Hawthorne’s poetic observation was not present in my thoughts. For a summer day, it was unusually cold; a light mist rose above the surface of the water; and having forgotten my towel and bathing suit at home in Pennsylvania, I was forced to strip down, making do with what I was wearing in that revealing moment. I hung my clothes on a nearby tree branch and began inching my way toward the water. It was a ritual Henry David Thoreau, one of America’s first literary giants, had performed countless times during his stay in the woods.
It was June 2007, and this was my second Trip to Walden Pond. I had visited the previous summer but resolved only to walk along the shoreline, avoiding the seduction of the water. “This time,” I thought to myself, “I am going in.” Although I was initially reluctant, once the water rose past by waistline, I felt an extraordinary release. I made one final push of the rock where I was standing and let go. I let the water take me. Feeling free from constraints, I had transformed into one of Hawthorne’s angels, baptized by the clear, cool waters of the pond.
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