Author Topic: Literary fiction clichés  (Read 2394 times)

Blinder Data

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Literary fiction clichés
« on: January 11, 2021, 07:22:24 PM »
You know what I mean by literary fiction, right? Booker prize stuff.

I was enjoying James Robertson's And the Land Lay Still recently. First chapter from one character's perspective was going well and then - guess what! - the next chapter is from a completely different character and time period. Wow, that's pretty random, I thought. I wonder what they could have in common...?!

It turns out that each chapter did the same thing and they were all long-lost relatives or by chance took a dump on the same toilet or something like that. This device happens so often with literary fiction: let's connect a bunch of characters with an extremely tenuous link. The link helps the author to explore various narrative voices but is essentially meaningless and doesn't help to tell the story. I noticed it in Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin too. I am bored of it!

What other literary fiction clichés are you bored of?

Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2021, 01:26:03 PM »
Middle-class family who are outwardly respectable do in fact harbour dark secrets, it turns out.

Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2021, 01:36:09 PM »
Sci-fi but not by an author usually associated with the genre, who would have you believe they are the first person ever to bring literary credibility to the field, because it's a by a real writer and thus is different from that plebby Star Trek Wars rubbish you like.

Mister Six

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2021, 07:23:01 PM »
Not really a device, but any capital-L Literature that lacks a compelling narrative or interesting characters, or even any compelling themes, and hides that behind overwrought prose.

I do honestly think that a lot of the supposed intellectual literati are a bit dense and gravitate towards "difficult" or showy prose because it's a surface-level way of identifying "clever" writing without having to actually critically engage with the meat of the text.

Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2021, 09:53:26 PM »
It turns out that each chapter did the same thing and they were all long-lost relatives or by chance took a dump on the same toilet or something like that.

Just read my first David Mitchell (Ghostwritten) and you’ve described the plot perfectly. His writing rises above it in some senses but I found it pretty tedious towards the end. Two or three of the voices could have got to fuck at least. Apparently he does a similar thing in Cloud Atlas? Puts me off reading it a bit tbh.

Twit 2

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2021, 09:11:21 AM »
The main character is...a writer!

They should all be force fed Beckett’s “Ping” down their throats till they bleed.

Magnum Valentino

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2021, 09:34:54 AM »
I read that the other day. I couldn't get fuckin Pearls Girl by Underworld out of my head for days afterwards.

What were allthattabout?

Twit 2

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2021, 02:10:59 PM »
I read that the other day. I couldn't get fuckin Pearls Girl by Underworld out of my head for days afterwards.

What were allthattabout?

Rupture of syntax and deliberate repetition of limited set of words for aesthetic effect?

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2021, 02:14:20 PM »
He's pulling our fucking plonkers, more like.

Lungpuddle

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2021, 02:25:25 PM »
I was enjoying James Robertson's And the Land Lay Still recently. First chapter from one character's perspective was going well and then - guess what! - the next chapter is from a completely different character and time period. Wow, that's pretty random, I thought. I wonder what they could have in common...?!

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency does something similar to this, and it is a great book. It's not Big Literature, which is probably what saves it, along with its sense of humour.

There's a shit load of books where the main character is, I shit you not, completely detestable. Not just unlikeable, but utterly loathesome, and they tend to be written by Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, that type of Author. I don't mind the books of theirs I've read, but I can't help but feel that maybe it might be an idea to have a fictional character whose death doesn't make me go "YES HURRAY YOU ARE DEAD THAT IS GOOD!" I get that it's a device to be writing from the point of view of a scumbag, but it's just so exhausting. I know I just called Dirk Gently a great book and Dirk isn't exactly a lovely bloke, but a) he's not the main character, Richard is, and b) he's a flawed human being instead of a complete cunt like every character in London Fields.

Absorb the anus burn

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2021, 02:27:27 PM »
The Hitchhiker turns out to be a ghost.[1]
 1. Or the hitchhiker is real and the driver a ghost.

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2021, 02:42:55 PM »
Oooh, there's a war; aaah, here's some lovely peace. Oh no! There's been a crime; it's ok, here comes some punishment. Look, there's a father; could this, perchance, be a son? Nineteenth century Russian wankers.

Twit 2

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2021, 02:55:38 PM »
Paradise Lost, is it? Oh, Paradise Regained. CUNT

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2021, 05:05:22 PM »
Remembrance of Things Past is it, Marcel? As opposed to all those things that I remember from the future, I suppose, you languid Mr. Pringle looking dick head. If your title doesn't even make sense, what makes you think I'm going to wade through SEVEN volumes of French shite about cakes? You'll be À la recherche du teeth perdu if our paths ever cross, monsieur, I promise you that.

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2021, 05:07:25 PM »
Actually, that's not a cliché, is it? I apologise, unreservedly.

Inspector Norse

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2021, 05:29:24 PM »
Just read my first David Mitchell (Ghostwritten) and you’ve described the plot perfectly. His writing rises above it in some senses but I found it pretty tedious towards the end. Two or three of the voices could have got to fuck at least. Apparently he does a similar thing in Cloud Atlas? Puts me off reading it a bit tbh.

He does but Cloud Atlas was much better. He eases off in later books - there are one or two others with the story moving between different characters but more of a common thread.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2021, 06:46:47 PM »
The main character is...a writer!

They should all be force fed Beckett’s “Ping” down their throats till they bleed.
A middle-aged writer who keeps having affairs with extremely attractive students because they just can't resist him.

Mister Six

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2021, 07:01:49 PM »
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency does something similar to this, and it is a great book. It's not Big Literature, which is probably what saves it, along with its sense of humour.

Also those threads all entwine into a single narrative. I think what's being identified here is the thing where the various characters' stories are all separate from one another save for a couple of vague crossovers (the nested stories in Cloud Atlas, a phone call from one character being picked up by another in Ghostwritten) - basically a wanky way to make a bunch of short stories seem more cohesive/look like a novel.

(Although I did quite like Cloud Atlas.)

chveik

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2021, 12:28:42 AM »
A middle-aged writer who keeps having affairs with extremely attractive students because they just can't resist him.

Philip Roth is the fucking worst for this. I'm really glad he didn't get a nobel prize

icehaven

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2021, 09:22:06 AM »
World War Two, and to a lesser extent, World War One. We've had, what, several thousand years of documented human history now and those 10 years have had more British and American novels written about them than all the rest put together. There should be a ban on them even being mentioned in fiction for at least 40 years, clear the air a bit.

icehaven

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2021, 09:23:47 AM »
The main character is...a writer!


And/or works at a university* as a professor/lecturer - just like the actual author. I mean I know they say "write what you know" but it's a pity so many of them only know the same thing.



*In American novels almost inevitably a small liberal arts college.

Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2021, 10:50:51 AM »
A middle-aged writer who keeps having affairs with extremely attractive students because they just can't resist him.

Ha, was going to suggest something along the lines of "Middle-aged man having some kind of emotional crisis that can only be resolved by having sex with a much younger woman."

icehaven

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #22 on: January 14, 2021, 12:12:08 PM »
A middle-aged writer who keeps having affairs with extremely attractive students because they just can't resist him.

Ha, was going to suggest something along the lines of "Middle-aged man having some kind of emotional crisis that can only be resolved by having sex with a much younger woman."

It can't be nice being married to or partnered up with these writers, particularly if you're closer to their age. I mean it's one thing to know that sure, most older (straight) men fantasise about having sex with much younger women, that's the way of the world, but it's quite another when they write it down, get it published and win plaudits for it. That's just embarrassing.

bgmnts

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #23 on: January 14, 2021, 02:21:12 PM »
World War Two, and to a lesser extent, World War One. We've had, what, several thousand years of documented human history now and those 10 years have had more British and American novels written about them than all the rest put together. There should be a ban on them even being mentioned in fiction for at least 40 years, clear the air a bit.

To be fair, its a lot easier to know what to write about in 20th century Europe/North America than, say, the bronze age Hittite empire.

icehaven

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #24 on: January 14, 2021, 07:21:45 PM »
To be fair, its a lot easier to know what to write about in 20th century Europe/North America than, say, the bronze age Hittite empire.

I know, but they've still been done to death, and there's still dozens of centuries of extremely well documented history to choose from if you're determined to write historic fiction. I think it's mainly because they're still the main enormously significant world events that are still just about in living memory and are still largely considered more relevant to now than virtually anything that happened before. 9\11 is the only other comparison and for all it's impact it was one day, compared to a combined total of a decade of the two wars.

thenoise

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #25 on: January 31, 2021, 10:16:03 AM »
Ha, was going to suggest something along the lines of "Middle-aged man having some kind of emotional crisis that can only be resolved by having sex with a much younger woman."

Bonus point if the emotional crisis involves wanting to write a great novel but drying up every time they sit down with a pen/typewriter/laptop.

I suppose it's the novelist's equivalent of the aging pop star's inevitable concept album about how tough it is being an aging pop star.

Mister Six

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2021, 03:19:57 PM »
I know, but they've still been done to death, and there's still dozens of centuries of extremely well documented history to choose from if you're determined to write historic fiction. I think it's mainly because they're still the main enormously significant world events that are still just about in living memory and are still largely considered more relevant to now than virtually anything that happened before. 9\11 is the only other comparison and for all it's impact it was one day, compared to a combined total of a decade of the two wars.

Up next: Covidpunk.

gilbertharding

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Re: Literary fiction clichés
« Reply #27 on: February 02, 2021, 10:15:31 AM »
The collected works of Martin Amis.

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