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Literary Fiction and Suspension of Disbelief
Bar Harbor
xiphias wrote this. I thought it deserved a wider audience, so asked him if I could repost it.
My problem with most literary fiction is that it is more boring than my life and my friends' lives.

This was an epiphany I had when I watched a community theater production of a play, set in Boston, incidentally, called SPIKE HEELS. In it, a socially-awkward well educated man has been befriending a woman who's less well educated, and helping her learn things, and it's a platonic relationship, and at the same time, she's dealing with the man's best friend who's something of a jerk, but is . . . less platonic. And there's the man's girlfriend, too.

And the play was okay. But I knew all the actors who were on stage. And the woman who was playing the less-educated woman is poly, but was in a monogamous marriage, but crushing heavily on the guy who was playing the jerk, which was something she'd only discovered at her own bachelorette party several months before, and the man who was playing the socially awkward guy was an ex-boyfriend, now platonic friend, who was helping her try to work out her feelings about this situation, and her husband, who wasn't in the play, is a very decent human being who is naturally monogamous and was trying to come to terms with his wife loving him, but also loving other people, and not understanding it -- and ALL of these people, when they talk, are wittier, more introspective, and just generally cooler than any of the characters they were playing.

I realized that, even though I liked the play, I would have had a better time seeing all the actors just sitting on stage talking about their own lives, because their own lives were more interesting than the lives in the play, and their own dialogue, and the way they just normally talk, is more witty and sparkling than the dialogue written by the playwright.

And that just crystalized why I can't get into literary fiction.

On my friends list are dragons, (former) spies, martial artists, dominatricies, pr0n artists, other sorts of artists, rocket scientists, writers, Voudonistas, special forces soldiers, cowgirls who are fighting to save the farm, elves, worshippers of ancient Egyptian deities, cyborgs, and magicians. And I'm a Hebrew school teacher/musician/bartender.

That's who I hang out with in real life. In order to even APPROACH the level of "interesting characters" that I hang out with on a regular basis, one really has to be well into genre fiction of SOME sort -- mystery, western, romance, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, military fiction. SOMETHING. Because I just can't manage the level of suspension of disbelief necessary to read literary fiction. Real life just doesn't have people as boring as the characters in literary fiction.

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Author Teresa Noelle Roberts makes a similar point here (I'm partial to paragraph 6).


Boston: The Musical has been on my 'to write' list for a while now. :)

Indeed. And when I can identify who xiphias is talking about just by those broad strokes, it goes to prove that real people and real lives are much more varied and complicated (to the point of being unique) that what you get in literary fiction.

I was about to object but then I realized that the literary fiction I like (Pynchon, Wallace, Houellebecq) contains anything from a liberal dose of genre fiction (Wallace) to outright uh-why-is-this-not-considered-scifi-by-fiction-snobs (Houellebcq). Just goes to show the distinctions are more arbitrary than many would like to think.

Nicely put...

I might end up tweeting some snippet of this, so does he (and/or you) have a @ Twitter account I can credit?

I don't.

His LJ profile doesn't list one, but does list several other contact methods, so you could ask him yourself: http://xiphias.livejournal.com/profile

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