Building a bridge between literary and genre fiction

Hello gentle reader,

Last week at the London Book Fair, I attended a seminar on Genre Snobbery, which inspired me for this post (please note this is not a recap of said seminar).

Traditionally, literary fiction and genre fiction have been akin to two different planets. On the one hand, literary fiction is seen as character-driven, “serious” fiction with universal/thought-provoking themes and global recognition. On the other hand, genre fiction is supposed to be plot-driven, focused on narrow niches of readership and often snubbed by well-meaning critics.

Yet.

Is it impossible for a book to be BOTH literary and genre fiction? To bridge that gap between both readerships, both genres, both worlds?

Yes, and here are a couple of examples (genre classification is mine):

Wicked by Gregory Maguire (Literary Fantasy Retelling)

Wicked2

The Radleys by Mat Haig (Literary Vampire Book)

TheRadleys

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Literary Historical Fantasy)

ElizabethKostova-TheHistorian

How do these books bridge the gap?

– The cover: only one detail (a drop of blood, a green girl) indicates the book could belong to the fantasy genre. At a first, quick glance, a reader could think this is a literary book. The cover thus appeals to both readerships.

– The content: these books have vampires, witches and ladies in petticoats, yet both their characters and plot lines could belong in a literay book.

– The author: often, a book that bridges the gap between literary and genre fiction has been written by a writer who has published works in both genres.

– The classification: these books are hard to put in a box. Often, the marketing team in charge of promoting them has struggled to pinpoint which genre they belong to, which readership they would appeal to and which cover to give them.

So what do you think? Have you ever read a “genre book” that you felt was literary? What do you think about genres and classifications in general? Feel free to leave me a comment below and to join the discussion!