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How Do You Define Something Of Literary Worth?

July 2, 2010

I was with Writer Friend yesterday, so you know things got heated. We talked about why people consider realistic fiction as ‘better’ than sci-fi/fantasy and whether Writer Friend could ever hope to achieve his goal of winning a Pulitzer with a sci-fi novel (from what I can tell, no one’s ever done it except Ray Bradbury in 2007, who won an honorary award, so my guess is you sci-fi types have to content yourselves with the Hugo and Nebula).

Later Writer Friend asked me to define what I felt qualified a book as something of “literary worth.”


  • Must be entertaining. Yes, that’s right, I actually have to want to flip the page, rather than slogging through text. Aka, give me a PLOT.
  • Must be ‘well-written’ as in, not just a good plot.
  • Must be intellectually stimulating. Must make you think, ponder, rub your chin, put book down, pick it back up, reread passage, scowl, throw book across room.
  • Must take an idea and approach it in an interesting way. I’m not asking for a never-before-seen plot or a made-up language. You even have permission to use the occasional cliche or two!
  • Must be loved by a decent sized number of people. Your immediate family doesn’t count.
  • Must be hated by a decent sized number of people. Your neighbor’s cat doesn’t count.

P.S. Writer Friend and I were in a Barnes and Nobles and you know I already have gripes about them. Well, here’s another thing to add to the list: Literary fiction was all the way on the 4th floor! Sci-fi and fantasy were tucked in a little nook right beside literary fiction! Even the magazine stands housing Cosmo and Esquire, even the cafe, had been designated a more respectable 3rd floor standing. And Y.A.? 2nd floor, of course. So unless you and your publisher manage to pay for the lucky chance to be on the tables in the front of the store (so many books I wanted to read, sigh), you aren’t getting any visibility, my friend.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ben permalink
    November 1, 2010 2:18 am

    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, interesting point about the barnes and noble, why don’t the idiots sell books we want to read?

  2. January 31, 2011 6:39 am

    Union Square, eh?

    Borders all the way! Out here in Shangri-L.A., YA gets TOP billing. Right in your face as you walk through the door.

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