Why you can’t popularize literary fiction, part 2

I voiced my opinions on the TC Boyle message board. Needless to say, I’m probably too aggressive in my stance. But a guy over there said: “(easy,chewable,harmless pages) shouldn’t be the goal of any writer with even the tiniest self-respect.”

Here’s my response.


I don’t know any of these successful authors who don’t have self-respect because I don’t know any of them who try to write based on what they think will sell. Everyone of them that I know writes from passion. And I know some NY Times Bestsellers. They might look at 10 projects they have passion for and choose one that might be more marketable. But the passion comes first.

I don’t know how anyone could spend the amazing number of hours it takes to finish a novel unless they have passion for the project. In fact, I wonder if it’s possible to create something that’s actually sellable without it. Everyone’s always talking about these hacks out there with metal brains writing for money. But after all the writers I’ve met, I’ve yet to find one. In my experience they’re as scarce as the yeti.

So my intent wasn’t to say you can write for love or money, but not both. My intent was to say that I believe most MFA programs have made themselves irrelevant to the greater stream of literacy in the country. The teachers have passion for fringe genre and teach their students how to entertain that fringe reader. And if they DO have passion for the types of fiction most readers want, such enjoyment is always talked about as some form of slumming. There’s an apology or at least a statement making it clear they know such fiction is not something you bring to the table where serious writers work.

But this isn’t true. Serious writers, passionate writers work in those genres. And they deliver excellent work. By that I do NOT mean they deliver the tropes of literary fiction in drag. What they deliver doesn’t appeal to the fringe markets. But it’s excellent, nevertheless, because it delivers exactly what the people go to those stories for.

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