Pop or Literary Fiction?
The question has risen again: which is better, popular fiction or literary fiction? You can find what some popular authors think of the matter on this Charis Connection post.
As for me, I think they both serve a different purpose so to say which is “best” is really a moot point unless you define what “best” means. If you’re talking about book sales then, overall, popular fiction takes the prize, hence the name “popular.” But if you’re talking about endurance, about writing stories that transcend time and space and are read over and over again by readers throughout generations, then literary fiction sits on top.
Literary fiction is about the language of writing and the art of telling a story that moves the soul and challenges the spirit. It’s about the human struggle and how it is overcome or overcomes. It is meant to be chewed on and digested slowly. It is meant to be thought out, argued over, and manipulated in the mind’s hands.
Popular fiction is entertainment. It’s a good story meant to pull the reader in and give him or her an experience in another time or location or world. It’s a story, plain and simple.
Now, pop fiction may serve a lot of the same purposes as literary fiction–to challenge, inspire, stir emotions–and that’s where, I believe, the line gets fuzzy. What exactly is a thriller? Is it literary or popular? Or can it be both? Jack London’s Call of the Wild, or White Fang, or The Sea Wolf are all thrilling tales but some would consider them literary works as well. The line is blurred and so I think you can’t say which is “better.” It’s a personal opinion. I like popular fiction better. It’s what I read and what I write, partly because I’m not smart enough to write literary fiction.