Friday, June 08, 2007

Steven Heighton on Literary Fiction

Steven Heighton on literary fiction:

But in truly literary fiction, the writing is never just functional. Literary fiction uses a number of fascinating techniques—essentially the techniques of poetry, though generally deployed in a more subtle way—so that the writing actually embodies or becomes the thing it’s about, acoustically recreating what it describes, the words in their artful patterns re-enacting the scene, image, or description so that the writing and what’s written about are indissolubly fused. Form and content, welded together.

From Steven Heighton, “Writing as Re-enaction” in Eliza Clark, ed., Writer’s Gym: Exercises and Training Tips for Writers (2007).


Litlove said...

Oh I love this - so beautifully said, and yes, so true. Except of course for the very clever, or intriguing books where they use opposing effects and means, which can make for some incredible prose.

Estella said...

I love this so much. It defines literary fiction in a way I've never quite been able to express.


Kate S. said...

It is beautifully put isn't it? I've struggled with defining "literary fiction," convinced that it is a meaningful term, but often bumping up against the distracting tendency of many to define it by contrast to genre fiction. The latter approach has always struck me as just wrong. I don't accept that literary fiction is its own genre that thereby excludes all genre fiction from its ambit. I appreciate the fact that Heighton's definition doesn't go that route.

I'm intrigued by your mention of "books where they use opposing effects and means." Can you give me some examples of works that fit into that category? I'd love to read a post by you on this topic!