Armchair BEA: Literary Confusion & Giveaway

Today, Armchair BEA asks us to consider how we feel about literary fiction. I’ll be honest: I have no idea what “literary fiction” means. I had to google it. Thank goodness for Wikipedia:

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman in an Armchair, 1874, via Wikimedia Commons

Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that are claimed to hold literary merit.

Despite the fact that all genres have works that are well written, those works are generally not considered literary fiction. To be considered literary, a work usually must be “critically acclaimed” and “serious”. In practice, works of literary fiction often are “complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas”.

I think the key word there is “claimed.” I’m not an English major nor do I hold a MFA in any type of creative writing, writing theory, etc., so maybe I’m missing something. But as a writer, I struggle with a lot of these definitions and genres and subgenres,  and the fact that the so-called literary “canon” seems overpopulated with dead, white European men.  I’m also confused about the difference between “literary fiction” and “classics.” Can y’all help me?


I may not have my genres down but what  I can do is give something away! Leave a comment on your favorite work(s) of literary fiction. With the magic of Randomizer, one commenter (U.S. only) will be chosen to receive a copy of one of my favorite works of fiction (literary, classic, or otherwise), IN SEARCH OF SATISFACTION by J. California Cooper.


Synopsis: (from Random House)

On a once-grand plantation  in Yoville, “a legal town-ship founded by the  very rich for their own personal use,” a  freed slave named Josephus fathers two daughters,  Ruth and Yinyang, by two different women. His  desire, to give Yinyang and himself money and  opportunities, oozes through the family like an elixir,  melding with the equally strong yearnings of  Yoville’s other residents, whose tastes don’t  complement their neighbors’. What Josephus buries in his  life affects generations to come. J. California  Cooper’s unfettered view of sin, forgiveness, and  redemption gives In Search Of  Satisfaction a singular richness that belies its  universal themes.


Armchair BEA is an online conference for those who can’t attend Book Expo America in New York City. Check the Armchair BEA site for book blogger posts, giveaways, and info on what’s happening at BEA.  

12 thoughts on “Armchair BEA: Literary Confusion & Giveaway”

  1. Wonderful giveaway 🙂 Yahoo, thanks for the chance. I’ve followed you on Bloglovin, love your style.

    Another blogger said something like this about literary fiction: It’s like porn. Hard to define but you know it when you see it.

    Ha! I thought that was hilarious 😉


  2. I am thinking that literary fiction just means that it is one of those books that might have an Oprah Winfrey sticker or will be done millions of times in book clubs. I would say To Kill a Mockingbird or maybe The Kite Runner would likely be my favorites. It almost seems like it is a hoity-toity kind of classification. Really, shouldn’t The Fault in Our Stars count too?


    1. It does seem a bit elitist. No one’s really sure what it means or what it takes to get that designation. And even To Kill a Mockingbird could be reclassified as Middle Grade or YA due to its protagonist. Confusing!


  3. Hmm, literary fiction is so subjective. I consider something “literary” fiction when it is more character driven so therefore probably slower paced and it must have lyrical writing. Not that I think it has to be a “classic” but I love Candide by Voltaire. I should re-read it soon!


  4. Literary fiction is so hard to label. It’s amusing when people (mostly writers) get in arguments over what is literary and what isn’t. To me, it’s anything I read that’s very well written — with multiple layers and gorgeous prose.


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