John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey
the_gneech

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Airy Persiflage, and Some Other Junk

Well, I'm about a fifth of the way through Wake Up, Sir; so far it's an enjoyable read, but it takes a bit of getting used to. I'll write a review of the thing when it's done, but for the moment I'll just say that Woody-Allen-as-Wooster and a cut-and-paste Jeeves don't really mesh with modern New Jersey, and it's a big pill to get down to try and pretend they do.

One thing that reading this has really driven home to me, tho, is this: I can't see how anybody can stand "literary fiction." This book is carried wholly on the airy persiflage of the writing style; if it weren't for the Clever Prose™ this book would be dreadfully dull. There isn't anything much resembling a plot ... so far the main character has spilled coffee on his uncle, decided to go on a road trip, and been accepted to an art colony that he applied for months before the book opened. I gather that this is a common type of storyline for literary fiction. Will Marsha have an affair? How will Derek cope with his childhood sexual abuse? Will the long-estranged sisters be reconciled? etc.

While I'm not the plot fiend that laurie_robey is, I definitely need a story in which something happens. This is why I tend to like plot-heavy genres, such as mystery or fantasy. But it doesn't have to be the War of the Ring, or international conspiracy or anything like that; stealing a silver cow creamer while trying to avoid a thuggish fellow houseguest is sufficient, as long as the plot is moving along nicely.

I've actually read quite a bit of literary fiction, but it was the literary fiction of bygone days: The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the like. Some of it was good (in the case of Mockingbird, very good -- but then, it had a plot), but a lot of it was the kind of thing I'd rather eat my own brain than be forced to slog through again. And that was the cream of the crop for that time! I can only imagine the other 95% that I've been mercifully spared from.

But I'm not up on contemporary classics; if asked to name a modern literary work, the titles that come to my mind are The Bridges of Madison County, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, none of which I've read, and none of which I'm entirely certain are actually "literary fiction." You'll note that all of these have been made into movies -- that isn't where I heard of them, but I think it has to be significant somehow.

As I've been writing this, it occurs to me that a lot of the things I've just decried in literary fiction are actually pretty accurate descriptions of The Suburban Jungle! Will Tiffany manage to juggle her love life and her career? Will Dover manage to say "I do?" If Conrad isn't gay, just what IS he? Yeeks. I guess in this case, SJ is also something being carried by its airy persiflage. Apparently there's some insidious part of my mind that likes to get bogged down in drama. That insidious part almost killed NeverNever, and has certainly given SJ its share of problems. Huh; I'll have to explore this a bit, it's a new realization for me.

What do you think?

-The Gneech
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