Smackdown! Writers Ring In on Literary vs. Genre Fiction

My sister and I both write novels. Mine tend to be tumultuous, vivid and crammed with explosive words and scenes, while hers are quiet, erudite and full of subtle, defining moments. Somewhat like our personalities, I guess, and undoubtedly the reason why they appeal to vastly different markets.

The situation is similar with genre and literary fiction. Although they are related, they seem at odds with each other at times. Like siblings, comparisons between the two can evoke strong emotions and an intense sense of rivalry. So although it’s not exactly the WWF, authors in each arena have definite opinions about their chosen path and how it relates to other types of fiction writing. And even among the categories, there can be a wide divergence of views. So lace up the boxing gloves and let the match begin.

In This Corner, The Literary Writers:
Although she waited until age 38 to put her fingers to the keyboard, Ann Arensburg served as a literary editor for Viking and Dutton before turning to writing full-time. Her first novel, Sister Wolf (Knopf), won an American Book Award in 1981; her third, the Gothic-themed Incubus (Knopf), was published in 1999. Her short stories have been included in the O. Henry Awards anthologies.

An associate professor of English at the University of Arizona, Elizabeth Evans is the author of the highly acclaimed novels The Blue Hour (Algonquin Books) and Carter Clay (HarperCollins). Her newest, Rowing in Eden, was published in 2000 and a collection of stories, Suicide’s Girlfriend, both from HarperCollins, is due in 2001.

The author of five novels, a memoir, and numerous short stories, Wayne Karlin received four Individual Artists Awards from his home state of Maryland and a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. His work with both Vietnam veterans and editors and writers from both sides of that war has resulted in several anthologies and honors. He teaches language and literature at Charles County Community College.


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