Tuesday, November 3, 2009


--Recent quotation from Alice Sebold

Yes, but exactly what IS "good" fiction, anyway?

Fair-minded editors and publishers can disagree on this topic for a year and a day. To this E&P, the definition goes like this:

NOT Experimental Fiction. Apart from academics and other eggheads and writers who are more interested in form than function, the majority of fiction writers throughout history have tried to please an audience. We can all be enlightened (maybe) by Joyce, Proust and Pynchon, but at the end of the day, most of us prefer a long text to have readability, fascinating characters and an intelligent style. After we have finished an experimental work, we breathe a sigh of relief. After finishing a work we admire, we say, "I want to read this again."
MAYBE to massmarket and bestsellers. There is no doubt about saleability here.
Stephen King and John Grisham outsell Philip Roth any day. Some readers have
pronounced THE DA VINCI CODE the best book they've ever read! Fun and easy, these works produce suspense, horror and along the way, some facts. My publishing house has put out several of this type of work. One in particular has kept us afloat over many years.
A BIG YES TO THE REST!!!. Often referred to in put-down fashion as "mid-list" books, lying uncomfortably between mass market and experimental , many publishers refer to this genre as "quality" fiction, "serious" fiction and (quietly, please!)" literature". Often taught in college courses and regarded by a smallish group of discriminating readers as packing in the right amount of quietly questioning stories about our fellow human beings and how they rise in , fall from, and learn about (or not) that situation we're all in together--life. These works become our classics. But sometimes it is so hard to identify the genre we publishers don't even try. We leave that to the critics. This genre receives prizes instead of buckets of cash. The works give publishing houses prestige, writers fame. To me, they deserve the "Good book" label most.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? COMMENT TO barbp39@gmail.com.